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                      2006 MONTREAL SCHOOL SHOOTING  AP
                      2006 SEAL HUNT  AP     
FAST FOCUS  Interview
Seals in Canada: Hunters, activists face off
PHIL COUVRETTE, who's covered the Canadian seal hunt for the AP, talks to asap about where the debate over the hunt stands this season.
Monday, 27 March, 2006, 18:08 EST, US
Even the celebrity power of Paul McCartney couldn't stop it.

Despite pleas from McCartney and other animal-rights activists, fishermen armed with spiked clubs have taken to the ice floes for Canada's annual seal hunt, which began Saturday. Several protesters have also shown up at the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sparking a showdown between the two groups.

At one point, a sealing vessel charged up to a small boat carrying protesters, and a fisherman flung seal intestines at them. And on Sunday, police arrested a group of animal activists for getting too close to the fishermen.

Animal-rights groups and celebrities, such as McCartney and French film legend Brigitte Bardot, say seal hunting is cruel, claiming the fishermen skin the seals alive or leave some pups to die if they are not immediately knocked unconscious. Most of the seals killed are two to three weeks old, when they are so fat from their mothers' milk they can barely move.

A 1987 law prohibits killing pups younger than two weeks who have not shed their fluffy white coat.

The fishermen say the annual hunt is crucial to their livelihood. Last year's hunt brought $14.5 million in revenue, after 320,000 seals were slaughtered. Fishermen sell the seals' pelts and blubber, earning up to $10,000 during the two-week hunt.

Can there any resolution to the debate over the hunt?

Phil Couvrette, who reports for the AP out of Montreal, traveled to the ice floes to cover the seal hunt. asap spoke to Couvrette about the long-running debate.


I know the seal hunt has been going on for centuries. Why such ugly protests now? Are more seals being killed than ever before?

Couvrette: I wouldn't say that it is more or less ugly now. It's certainly a lot more publicized. Paul McCartney made a very publicized visit. And Brigitte Bardot has really developed animal activism since the '70s. They spoke very strongly against it and that generated a lot of publicity. But the way things are done, the way the hunt is being done hasn't changed a whole lot in the last few years.


I know the weather has been warm. How has that affected the seal hunt?

Couvrette: This year the number of seals simply was not there. That is a bit because of the ice situation. For some extraordinary reason, it has been very warm very early on. There has been a thawing that has been very strong over the St. Lawrence. Basically some of those seal pups don't get to have the chance to learn how to swim. They fall through the ice and drown very early on, and that will account for the lack of seals out there.


Are fishermen still hunting, or have they given up?

Couvrette: Some of them are still hunting because this is a very important time of year. These are people usually who have had a history of living by the sea and depend on the fisheries a lot. And a lot of the fisheries that they used to depend on with time have dwindled. The cod fishery has suffered a lot. The crab fishery as well. For many of them, this seal hunt for a few days is when it's very lucrative because you can perhaps make up for some of the losses that are incurred the rest of the year when the other fisheries aren't doing so well. Some of them are determined to be out there to get what they can. Some of them have been discouraged.


How are these fishermen making their money? The United States banned Canadian seal products in 1972, and Europe banned importing the white pelts in 1983.

Couvrette: Other countries seem to be buying them. They are making money from the pelts and increasingly they are making money from the oil. Apparently, that is where they are getting most of their money. I was speaking to one lifelong hunter, and he was saying also what people don't consider is that there is a lot of spinoff from this activity. So it generates a lot of economic activity, and really it generates some money.


Do you think this debate will ever end?

Couvrette: The protesters scored a major victory in the '80s. In 1987, there was a prohibition. Seals two weeks and younger couldn't be hunted anymore. Certainly the market for those seals disappeared right then and there. They are hoping they will score a similar victory. For those hunters, with the dwindling fisheries out there -- well, they are not seeing many alternatives out there. It's hard to tell. I certainly don't see that on the horizon, but really, who knows?

Canadian Jews fear Russian group behind anti-semitic graffiti
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Friday January 13, 2006

MONTREAL -- A Jewish organization that monitors anti-Semitic activities in Canada said Friday it suspects a Russian group is behind a rash of swastikas that were spray-painted in a Jewish neighborhood of Montreal this week.

B'nai Brith Canada said the swastikas were found at seven locations in the Cote-des-Neiges and Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighborhood, near a Jewish school and community center in the French-speaking financial and cultural capital of the
province of Quebec.
Two of the sites were spray-painted with the Internet address of a Russian national socialist Web site, a site that includes a photo of Adolph Hitler and quotes excerpts from his Mein Kampf autobiography.

Although police have no suspects and there have been no eyewitnesses, the language of the site leads B'nai Brith to suspect the Russian group is involved, which would be a first, said spokesperson Leah Berger.

"We haven't had any issues with the Russian community," said Berger.

The incidents, all within two blocks of one another, mark a sharp increase in the number of incidents, she said.

"Callers to our Anti-Hate Hot line first alerted us to the problem," said Allan Adel, national chair of the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada. "They were rightly concerned by the visually explicit displays of anti-Semitic graffiti in close proximity to Jewish schools, houses of worship and community institutions."

The incidents occurred in a culturally diverse part of the city, with some 160,000 residents, many of whom are Jewish and Holocaust survivors.

"You can imagine this kind of event touches them in a deep way," Berger said.

In Quebec, B'nai Brith saw an 88 percent surge of anti-Semitic incidents in 2004, including the fire-bombing of a Jewish school, though it anticipates the final tally for 2005 will be lower.

Overall, Canada saw an hike of 47 percent in anti-Semitic events in 2004, making it the worst of the 22 years that it has been conducting an audit.

Conservative party wins in Canada election
The Associated Press
Tuesday January 24, 2006
OTTAWA - Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party won national elections Monday and ended 13 years of Liberal rule, a victory expected to move Canada rightward on social and economic issues and lead to improved ties with the United States.
The Conservatives' winning margin was too narrow to avoid ruling with a minority government, a situation that will make it difficult to get legislation through a divided House of Commons.

The triumph for the Conservatives came with many Canadians weary of the broken promises and corruption scandals under the Liberal Party, making them willing to give Harper a chance to govern despite concerns that some of his social views are extreme.

"Tonight friends, our great country has voted for change, and Canadians have asked our party to take the lead in delivering that change," Harper told some 2,000 cheering supporters at his campaign headquarters in Calgary.

Relations with the Bush administration will likely improve under Harper as his ideology runs along the same lines of many U.S. Republicans.

Harper has said he would reconsider a U.S. missile defense scheme rejected by the current Liberal government of     Prime Minister Paul Martin. He also said he wanted to move beyond the Kyoto debate by establishing different environmental controls, spend more on the Canadian military, expand its peacekeeping missions in     Afghanistan and Haiti and tighten security along the border with the United States in an effort to prevent terrorists and guns from crossing the frontier.

With nearly all votes counted in the race for the 308-seat House, officials results showed Conservatives with 123 seats; Liberals with 103; Bloc Quebecois with 50, New Democratic Party with 28; and one seat to an Independent. Three seats still haven't been determined.

Prime Minister Paul Martin conceded defeat and said he would step down as head of the party, though remain in Parliament to represent the Montreal seat he won again. It was an unusual move to do both on the same night, but Martin appeared upbeat and eager to continue to fight the Conservatives from the opposition benches of the House.

"I have just called Stephen Harper and I've offered him my congratulations," Martin told a subdued crowd at his headquarters in Montreal. "We differ on many things, but we all share a believe in the potential and the progress of Canada."

The Conservative victory ended more than a decade of Liberal Party rule and shifted the traditionally liberal country to the right on socio-economic issues such as health care, taxation, abortion and gay marriage. Some Canadians have expressed reservations about Harpers' views opposing abortion and gay marriage.

During the campaign, Harper pledged to cut the red tape in social welfare programs, lower the national sales tax from 7 percent to 5 percent and grant more autonomy and federal funding to Canada's 13 provinces and territories.

The Liberals have angered Washington in recent years, condemning the war in     Iraq, refusing to join the continental anti-ballistic missile plan and criticizing     President Bush for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions and enacting punitive Canadian lumber tariffs.

Martin, 67, had trumpeted eight consecutive budget surpluses and sought to paint Harper as a right-winger posing as a moderate to woo mainstream voters. He claimed Harper supports the war in Iraq, which most Canadians oppose, and would try to outlaw abortion and overturn gay marriage.

Harper denied those claims and said Sunday that Martin had failed to swing voters against him.

"Canadians can disagree, but it takes a lot to get Canadians to intensely hate something or hate somebody. And it usually involves hockey," Harper quipped.

Voters cast ballots at 60,000 polling stations amid unseasonably mild winter weather. Turnout from the country's 22.7 million registered voters was expected to be better than the 60 percent of the June 2004 election, the lowest number since 1898.

William Azaroff, 35, voted for the left-of-center New Democratic Party but conceded a Conservative government was likely to win.

"I think it's a shame," said the business manager from Vancouver, British Columbia. "I think the last government was actually quite effective for Canadians. I think a Conservative government is just a backlash against certain corruption and the sense of entitlement."

Martin's government and the House were dissolved in November after New Democrats defected from the governing coalition to support the Conservatives in a no-confidence vote amid a corruption scandal involving the misuse of funds for a national unity program in Quebec.

An investigation absolved the prime minister of wrongdoing but accused senior Liberals of taking kickbacks and misspending tens of millions of dollars in public funds.

Just as campaigning hit full swing over the Christmas holidays, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced they were investigating a possible leak by Liberal government officials that appeared to have influenced the stock market.

When the 38th Parliament was dissolved, the Liberals had 133 seats, the Conservatives had 98, the Quebec separatist party Bloc Quebecois had 53 and the New Democrats had 18. There also were four Independents and two vacancies.


AP writers Phil Couvrette in Montreal, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Shelley Knapp in Calgary and Jeremy Hainswroth in Vancouver contributed to this report.

Goalie Theodore tests positive for banned substance
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Feb 9, 9:06 pm EST

MONTREAL (AP) -- Montreal goalie Jose Theodore has tested positive for a banned substance in pre-Olympic screening because he was using a hair-growth drug that can be used as a masking agent, the Canadiens' team doctor said Thursday.

The test wasn't part of the NHL's new testing program, so he will not be subject to league discipline.

Theodore was not picked for Canada's Olympic team, but was on the preliminary 81-player eligibility list. No punishment was handed down because he is appealing the result to an arbitrator.

Canadiens team doctor David Mulder said at a news conference that Theodore was tested Dec. 12. A month later, the Hockey Canada doctor informed Mulder about Theodore's test result.

Mulder said Theodore tested positive because the goalie has been taking Propecia, a hair-growth stimulant, for about eight years -- even though he has a full head of hair. Mulder said he was aware that Theodore was taking the Propecia.

Propecia, Mulder said, was placed on the banned substance list about two years ago. Besides helping grow hair, it is considered a masking agent for other performance enhancers.

Mulder stressed Propecia alone is not a performance enhancer.

He said he was "convinced" the goalie was not using the drug to mask the use of performance enhancers.

Theodore, speaking after Montreal's 3-2 overtime win at Buffalo, said he began using the stimulant to preserve what remains a full head of hair.

"I always like my hair real long and I like to keep it long as long as possible," said Theodore, who served as backup against the Sabres as Cristobal Huet made his fifth consecutive start.

"I don't feel I have anything to hide," Theodore said. "It's not something that I got on the black market. It was a prescription from the doctor for eight years, so I don't feel uncomfortable by anything."

Theodore noted he had never tested positive before despite competing in several international tournaments. He added he was only made aware of Propecia being placed on the banned list in October.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement that Theodore also faces no sanctions for future positive tests for Propecia because the goalie had already applied for an exemption for prescribed use.

Last month, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Bryan Berard was suspended from international competition for two years after testing positive for a banned steroid. Berard didn't make the U.S. Olympic team. He also was not subject to league discipline.

Earlier Thursday, World Anti-Doping Agency president Dick Pound repeated his criticism of the NHL's drug-testing program at press conference in Turin, Italy.

The NHL introduced random tests for performance-enhancing drugs this season, but anti-doping authorities have attacked the plan as weak and ineffective.

"It amounts to practically nothing. There are no offseason tests. And you're not allowed to test a player after a game or before a game," Pound said.

Theodore is 17-15 this season with a 3.46 goals-against average but has struggled over the last month and a half, with a 4-9 record and a 4.06 goal-against average.

Theodore added that one look at his slim build -- he's listed at 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds -- is proof that he's not taking steroids.

"If you look at me with no shirt, if I'm taking steroids then I should change the guy that's selling them to me because it's not working," Theodore said.

Muslims demonstrate in Canada against cartoons
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Saturday February 11, 2006

MONTREAL _ Muslims demonstrated peacefully in two principal Canadian cities – Montreal and Toronto -- to condemn the publication of blasphemous cartoons.

About 250 protesters gathered Saturday near McGill university in downtown Montreal, a heavy police presence separating them from some 50 counter-protesters holding signs across the street.

The protest coincided with another demonstration in Toronto of about 1,500 people who clogged a busy downtown area just outside the Danish consulate.

In Montreal, protesters had initially planned to march to the Danish consulate but changed their plans after some 50 Muslim groups appealed to organizers to cancel the demonstration apprehending violence could erupt.

``We're here to denounce insults against the Holy Prophet and all prophets and all types of provocation,'' declared Said Jazeri, imam of Montreal’s al-Qods mosque which organized the protest.

"This is a great proof of tolerance, to show the world that once Muslims are free they're like everybody else, civilized people, people of peace."

Protesters chanted and sang, some people holding signs reading "No to insulting our prophets, Muhammad, Jesus, Moses" while young children clutched copies of the Coran.

Jazeri thanked the crowd for showing up despite what he called a campaign of intimidation by others members of the Muslim community.

There were widespread divisions on the need to hold the protest in the Muslim community of this French-speaking city home to thousands of immigrants from North Africa, some fearing violence.

Other groups haved been promoting a dialogue between the local communities by opening the doors of local mosques and distributing information pamphlets as part of an education campaign about Islam.

Protesters were prohibited from chanting hateful slogans or bringing  flags of any sort to prevent flag-burning incidents, the trademark of protests held around the world.

"We're against all forms of violence and we have proved it," Jazeri said at the end of peaceful gathering which lasted about 30 minutes.

But at least some of the protesters condoned some of the violence which have marked demonstrations elsewhere.

"It's a perfectly normal reaction, they were justified and I would be a hypocrite to tell you otherwise," Wassila Bouzidi said of protesters torching embassies in other more violent demonstrations. "People should not insult the Prophet, what would your reaction be if someone struck your child?"

Counter-protester Sebastien Mallet,22, holding a sign saying "Drawings are not a weapon but a form of expression" said the violence elsewhere was overblown. "We're tired of these crazy demonstrations, all for a few drawings, for nothing."

Police sealed a section of a downtown street for the event and had extra officers on duty. Spokesperson Anie Lemieux said there were no incidents bar one arrest unrelated to the protest.
Blind Algerian man holes up in church to avoid deportation
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Monday February 13, 2006

MONTREAL _ Blind and suffering from diabetes, Abdelkader Belaouni feared he could be deported to the United States or worse, his native Algeria. He took a traditional route to protect himself, seeking _ and being granted _ sanctuary in a Canadian church.

Belaouni argued he could be persecuted in either the U.S. or Algeria. He fled his homeland in the late 1990s and had managed to scrape together a living in the United States until 2003, when he fled to Canada after coming to feel the post-9/11 environment was hostile toward Arabs.

The argument failed to move Canadian Immigration officials, who refused his claim in October _ saying he had no connection to Canada _ and asked that he report, luggage and ID in hand, for deportation on Jan. 5.

Instead, the 38-year-old Belaouni began hiding out in the rectory of the St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church in Montreal.

"I was given two reasons for being rejected: lack of employment and lack of family," he told The Associated Press in the rectory where he has been sheltered.

Belaouni has scraped by on government welfare and the generosity of friends, as his status prevents him from getting a job.

He has received support from local officials and human rights activists and has appealed to the minister of immigration. But a change of government after January's parliamentary elections means he may have to take up the entire process again.

"My hope is that the minister will make a final humanitarian gesture and allow me to stay," Belaouni said.

Canadian Border Services Agency spokesperson Robert Gervais said an arrest warrant was issued for Belaouni after he failed to show up for deportation.

"He has exhausted all legal avenues," Gervais said, after risk assessments concluded he would not face persecution if returned to the United States or Algeria.

However, by tradition, Canadian police have generally not arrested those who are given sanctuary in churches. Belaouni joins a number of refugee claimants who are using churches in Newfoundland, Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto to avoid deportation.

Three Palestinian refugees spent 13 months in the basement of Montreal's Eglise Notre Dame de Grace before their deportation order was lifted on humanitarian grounds last year. A Colombian family was also allowed to stay at about the same time after spending 19 months in another Montreal church.

However, in March 2004 police did arrest another Algerian who took refuge in a church in Quebec City. Authorities said he was wanted for jumping bail.

Belaouni made a living selling phone cards in Brooklyn after fleeing the Algerian civil war in 1996. After the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. officials required foreign nationals, many from Muslim countries including Algeria, to register with authorities.

Many were eventually deported, and Belaouni feared the same. After he registered and went through three interviews, he was forced to surrender his passport. That's when he decided to flee to Canada, where he believed he would be accepted on humanitarian grounds.

In March of 2003 Belaouni walked across the Canadian border with the assistance of a Montreal friend who helped him apply for refugee status and offered him shelter.

The Rev. Jim McDonald of St. Gabriel said he could not turn Belaouni away.

"We lost a little sleep about whether or not this would take place. But I think I would lose a lot more sleep if it would happen that Kader was picked up on Jan. 5," McDonald told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., using a nickname for Abdelkader.

Last year, the safe third-country border agreement between Washington and Ottawa allowed the countries to deny refugee claimants crossing the land border because it deemed them already safe in either Canada or the United States.

But Belaouni doesn't feel he'd be safe returning to the United States.

"We have paid for what they have done," he said of the 9/11 hijackers, adding one of his Brooklyn neighbors died in the attack on New York City.

Belaouni fears that if he is forced to return to the United States, that he may be deported back to Algeria, having abandoned the registration process. He ran a grocery store back home and said he was regularly bullied by Islamic militants waging war with the government, though there was no way to independently verify that claim.

Algeria erupted into bloody civil war in 1991, when the military aborted elections when the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Fronts took the lead. An army crackdown escalated into a bloody insurgency in 1992-1998 that resulted in some 100,000 deaths. While much of the country has since stabilized, some regions are still subject to travel advisories.

"No one could guarantee my security there," Belaouni said. "Personally, with my handicap, it would be very difficult for me to go back."

Belaouni said he is receiving treatment for his diabetes at a Montreal clinic and added that's one reason he want to stay here.

"I hope the minister will consider my state of health above all else," he said.


Solidarity Across Borders:

Mexicans surpass others in seeking refugee status
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Monday Feb 13 18:24

MONTREAL (AP) -- More Mexicans than any other nationality fled to Canada last year -- though relatively few of them are allowed to remain, officials said Monday.

Mexicans for the first time surpassed Chinese, Colombians, Sri Lankans and Indians as claimants to Canada, their partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to figures released by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Last year 3,541 Mexicans applied for refugee-status in Canada, where officials worry they enter only to then cross into the United States.

However, most of those Mexicans -- 2,286 -- had their cases rejected, and some 696 did not even show up at their refugee board hearing, officials said. Of those 696, 471 withdrew their claim an went back to Mexico, while 225 disappeared altogether.

Once a claim is made, refugee-seekers must agree to appear at a scheduled refugee hearing before they are released. While they await their hearing, they are free to enter society and apply for permission to work or to place their children in schools.

China, Colombia, Sri Lanka and India rounded out the top five in 2005, but all had significantly higher ratios of success than Mexico. Only 19 percent of Mexican refugee-seekers were accepted, compared with an average of 46 percent among the top 10.

As citizens of a free-trade partner, Mexicans do not need a visa to enter Canada, but they are not given a preferential treatment for residency or work permits.

"All refugee-seekers are treated the same regardless of their country of origin, and that includes the United States," said Charles Hawkins of the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Mexicans have steadily become Canada's top refugee-seekers, coming in 2nd in 2004 and 2003, 4th in 2002 and 8th the year before.

Immigration officers and security officials worry that many of the Mexicans use illegal smuggling rings to gain entry into the U.S. after they are in Canada.

Hawkins, however, said there is not a trend in the number of people who do not show up at the hearings and then disappear altogether.

"It doesn't appear people who come here abandon their claim in greater numbers," he said, noting that the number of people who never show up actually has gone down.

In 2004, 246 Mexicans "abandoned" their refugee claims, according government figures, compared with 225 last year and 275 in 2003.

Quebec priests oppose Vatican on Gay issues
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Tue Feb 28, 10:45 PM ET

MONTREAL - In a rare public dissent, 19 Catholic priests have denounced the Vatican's opposition to gay marriage and allowing homosexuals into the priesthood.
The clerics signed an open letter that ran Sunday in Montreal's La Presse newspaper, criticizing the church's positions on the issues.

The priests said the church was invoking "natural law" to make its case against homosexuality, arguing that slavery was also once considered "natural."

"What we are saying is that human nature is constantly evolving," Claude Lemieux, one of the signatories, told The Associated Press by phone Tuesday. "We believe this position is closer to that which is shared by our parishioners."

The letter questions whether the church has "the last word on the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life."

"In these matters," the letter says, "the official teaching of the church has shown itself more than once to be wrong."

The letter was in response to the position against gay marriage by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Recent guidelines of the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education also restated opposition to the ordination of priests with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies." But the Vatican said there would be no crackdown on gays who are already ordained.

Canada last year legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, a move many clerics of all religions opposed.

There are roughly 13 million Catholics in Canada, about 43 percent of the population, and nearly half live in the French-speaking province of Quebec. In 2004, Quebec legalized gay marriage.


Coroner: Lack of oxygen, not peanut-butter killed girl
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Monday, March 6, 2006 1724 GMT

MONTREAL, Quebec (AP) -- A teenager with a peanut allergy did not die from kissing her boyfriend following his peanut-butter snack, but from a lack of oxygen to her brain, a Quebec coroner said Monday.

Coroner Michel Miron declined to disclose the exact cause of death because he has yet to submit his final report to the provincial coroner's office, but he told The Associated Press he hoped to end the "phobia" provoked by the case, which drew global media coverage.

Christina Desforges, 15, died in a Quebec hospital in November. Officials at the time had said that doctors were unable to treat her allergic reaction to a peanut-laced kiss from her boyfriend the previous weekend.

Allergists described the case as being rare and worrisome.

"Elements of the investigation tell us peanut butter was not responsible," Miron told the AP. Miron said clinical indicators have eliminated peanut as the cause for her death and said it appeared the girl suffered from "cerebral anoxia," or lack of oxygen to the brain, which caused serious damage.

Miron said he could not discuss reports that the girl suffered from asthma and believed she was having an attack before her collapse.

Symptoms of peanut allergies can include hives, plunging blood pressure and swelling of the face and throat, which can block breathing.

Miron said he felt compelled to speak out to counter incorrect claims that peanut butter was responsible for Christina's death, or that injections used to treat allergic reactions were ineffective.

"People thought the girl had not used her Epipen [Adrenalin shot] properly and families were panicking because they thought it wouldn't always work," he said, insisting that the drug's effectiveness was never in doubt.

Scientific journals also had contacted him, questioning the use of the Adrenalin shot and how it is injected.

"It was necessary to set things straight," Miron said. "The drug wasn't used at all because nobody knew she was allergic," he said, noting the first hospital she was sent to did not have her records.

Miron said the girl and her boyfriend kissed, but many hours after he ate the peanut-butter snack. By then he had ingested other foods such as popcorn and beer.

The saliva generated in the process also would have cleansed his mouth before the kiss, Miron said.

Quebec bishops downplay rebel priests
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
03.10.2006, 08:55 PM
MONTREAL - Quebec's Catholic bishops Friday downplayed a recent public outburst of 19 priests against the Vatican's stand on homosexuality, but called for an internal debate on the matter.

The Quebec Conference of Catholic Bishops held this week precedes an upcoming visit of Canadian bishops to the Vatican in May, where the issue will be among the "principal aspects" of discussions with Pope Benedict XVI.

The bishops said they regretted that dissident priests had made their views public through the media last month, but agreed it provoked needed dialogue within the church on a variety of topics, including gay marriage.

The Feb. 26 letter was a rare case of public dissent within Quebec's Catholic church. In it, the priests criticized the Vatican for opposing gay marriage and forbidding homosexuals from the priesthood. They suggested the church needed to evolve, rather than have "the last word on the mysteries of political, social, family and sexual life."

The bishops issued a news release Thursday, calling the letter "food for thought."

"We regret, however, that we have been brought into this by force of circumstance; it is a confrontational dynamic that threats to harden positions," the bishops said.

The bishops said their coming meeting with the pope would explore various topics about Quebec society, including "ethical questions such as civil union and the definition of marriage."

Canada last year legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, a move many clerics of all religions opposed.

There are about 13 million Catholics in Canada, about 43 percent of the country's population, with nearly half living in the French-speaking province of Quebec.

French minister praises French Canadians for devotion to language
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
5:40 p.m. March 17, 2006

MONTREAL - The French foreign minister praised Quebec's determination to defend the French language in North America, saying Friday that the region has set an example for all Francophones.  

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said French-speaking Canadians were more insistent on using French words for technical terms that are typically spoken in English in France.

"You are teaching us how to fight for our language and we thank you; we should imitate you," Douste-Blazy said at the home of the French consul-general in Montreal.  

Douste-Blazy, ending a two-day visit to Canada, avoided the delicate issue of Quebec sovereignty.

A movement for independence of the French-speaking province was narrowly defeated in 1995, when Quebecois voted against separation by a slim margin in a referendum.  

He nonetheless sympathized with the identity plight of Quebecers.  

"The more globalization is present, the more the Internet makes the world a village, the more we want to belong to a strong identity," he said.  

But Douste-Blazy cautioned that the defense of the culture and language of a minority was not the same as defending nationalism.

"These are two completely different things," he said.  

The foreign minister also praised Canada's universal public health system as the reflection of "a society based on solidarity," and contrasted it with the health care situation in the United States.

Aviation group regrets EU ban
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
23/03/2006 09:24 AM

Montreal - African aviation officials attending a global airline security conference said on Wednesday they understood the need to keep the skies safe, but regretted a European Union decision to blacklist some of their airlines.
Earlier in the day, the EU banned over 90 mostly African-based airlines from landing at European airports, declaring them unsafe, as part of a new blacklist of airlines that fail to meet international safety standards.

Tshepo Peege, president of the African Civil Aviation Commission, agreed that "any airplane that is unworthy should not be in the air," but feared the EU's move could spark reprisals.
"The ban is very unfortunate," he said. "The problem is, we're going to have a tit-for-tat situation."
Closing a three-day security conference, the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) avoided criticising the EU's decision, despite its aversion to non-diplomatic measures such as blacklists.
"Both the European community and ICAO had a difficult summer ... and all felt compelled to act as quickly as possible," said Bill Voss, director of the ICAO's Air Navigation Bureau.
"We acted on a global level (by organizing the conference) ... Europe had compelling needs from their own public to act on a regional level."
The ICAO said it would seek to improve airline safety with greater transparency by starting to post on the internet aviation safety audits for different countries, and singling out nations that refused to do so by March 2008.
US and Venezuela meet:
American and Venezuela aviation officials also met during the conference to try to avoid a bilateral ban on each others' airlines.
Venezuela wants the US Federal Aviation Administration to end safety restrictions imposed in 1995 on Venezuelan airliners and says it will decide on March 30 whether to ban US flights. US Ambassador William Brownfield warned earlier this week that Venezuelan flights to the US would be banned if Caracas went ahead with its restrictions.
Caracas insists it has corrected any safety problems and recently invited FAA officials to inspect its airlines.
FAA spokesperson Laura Brown said on Tuesday that FAA Administrator Marion Blakey was in Montreal to deal with other safety issues and it was unclear on Wednesday whether the two countries made any progress on the debate.
Venezuela's proposed ban, which would prohibit flights by Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc, and restrict some by AMR Corp's American Airlines, based in Fort Worth, Texas, comes amid increasingly tense ties between Caracas and Washington.
ICAO head Assad Kotaite said a US mission would visit Caracas early next month to maintain dialogue and assess Venezuela's progress since its last audit.
"The bridges are not broken, in aviation they must not be broken," Kotaite said.
Canada's hotly debated seal hunt underway Saturday
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
6:05 p.m. March 23, 2006

MONTREAL - Canada's contentious seal hunt begins Saturday in the frozen ice floes off the Gulf of St. Lawrence, federal fisheries officials announced Thursday, as animal-rights activists gear up for their annual protests.
Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesman Phil Jenkins said while ice conditions are poor in the southern portion of the gulf - between the mainland of Quebec and the Atlantic Ocean - many seals have been spotted further north.
The government insists the country's seal population is thriving, at nearly 6 million, and the annual hunt supplements the incomes of the isolated fishing communities in Quebec and Newfoundland.
But animal-rights activists and celebrities, including Paul McCartney and Brigitte Bardot, have placed Canada under an unpopular global spotlight, calling the world's largest seal hunt barbaric and unnecessary in a developed nation.
Registered hunters are not allowed to kill the pups before they molt their downy white fur, typically when they're 10 days to three weeks old.
"The animals are only weeks old, its cruel, they have yet to meet maturation," deplored Chris Cutter of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which has invited a parliamentarian from Germany, currently considering a ban of seal products, to witness the hunt.
Boycotts have worked in the past, Cutter notes, after countries banned the import of pelts from white coat seals, causing their market to collapse.
The United States banned Canadian seals products in 1972, and a ban on importing the white pelts of seal pups was implemented by the European Community in 1983.
The quota for the hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is 91,000 harp seals. When the hunt moves to Newfoundland in April, up to 325,000 seals can be killed this year.
About 320,000 seals pups were killed last year, bringing the local fishermen 14.5 million.
Seal hunt begins amid protests
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Sun Mar 26, 12:42 AM ET

GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE - Sealers took to the thawing ice floes off the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, the first day of Canada's contentious seal hunt, confronting animal rights activists who claim the annual cull is cruel.
Protesters dodged flying seal guts pitched at them by angry hunters on the first day of the spring leg of the world's largest seal slaughter. Reporters and activists tried to get as close as permitted to the hunt on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but their presence infuriated sealers hunting for scarce animals on small, drifting ice pans.
At one point, a sealing vessel charged up to a small inflatable Zodiac boat carrying protesters, and a fisherman flung seal intestines at the observers.
"They threw carcasses at our Zodiac and they came rushing at us in their boat and tried to capsize us in the wake," Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society told The Associated Press. "This is standard behavior out here; the sealers feel that they're completely above the law."
The fishermen in the isolated island communities of Quebec and Newfoundland say the hunt supplements their meager winter incomes, particularly since cod stocks have dwindled dramatically during the past decade. They resent animal-rights activists, who They say have little understanding of their centuries-old traditions.
The hunt brought $14.5 million in revenue last year, after some 325,000 seals were slaughtered. Fishermen sell their pelts, mostly for the fashion industry in Norway, Russia and China, as well as blubber for oil, earning about $60 per seal.
The federal government maintains Canada's seal population is healthy and abundant, with a population of nearly 6 million in the Arctic north and maritime provinces.
Regulations require the sealers to quickly kill the seals with a pick or bullet to the brain. The pups also must be over 2-3 weeks old and have shed their white downy fur before being killed.
Mark Small, president of the Northeast Coast Sealers Coop, has been sealing off Newfoundland for about 40 years. He said the activists do not understand how important the hunt is to family fishermen.
"I think the Canadian public realizes these are coastal people who live off the sea and depend on the hunt to survive in small communities where the fish stocks are not there," Small told the AP in a telephone interview from St. Johns.
Animal rights activists claim the fishermen often skin the seals alive or leave some pups to die if they are not immediately knocked unconscious.
The Humane Society has had high-profile allies in celebrities like Paul McCartney and his wife, Heather Mills McCartney, who traveled to the Gulf of St. Lawrence two weeks ago to pose with the newborn pups.
In a video message from London, the McCartneys proposed that Canada could end the slaughter by offering a license buyback program to sealers.
The French film legend Brigitte Bardot came to Ottawa earlier this week. She said she was stunned that a developed nation would still let such a practice continue, three decades after she first came to Canada to frolic with some pups in an attempt to end the slaughter.
The unseasonably mild temperatures in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have made the ice thin and many of the harp seal pups appear to have drowned, prompting protesters to call for the quota of 325,000 kills to be lowered to compensate for the natural deaths.
John Grandy, a veteran animal-rights activist on board a plane chartered by the Humane Society to monitor the hunt and report any abuses, also said fewer pups were on the ice this year.
"That tells us many have died, they fell through before they could swim," Grandy said.
Roger Simon, spokesman for the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, disputed concerns about a high natural seal mortality this year.
"There will always be some mortality and some drowning," Simon told The Canadian Press.
Aboriginal and Inuit hunters began the commercial kill in November in Canada's frozen Arctic waters; the spring leg will move off the coast of Newfoundland in April. The St. Lawrence hunt can last from three to 10 days, depending on hunting conditions.
Martin Dufour, a helicopter pilot from Quebec who was ferrying the Humane Society protesters out to the ice, said he was not opposed to the hunt, only the way in which the seals are killed.
"I don't know why they use the picks," he said. "It's a savage way and the seals are too young."
The hunters prefer to use spiked clubs called hakapiks to crush the seals' skulls, rather than possibly damage the pelts with bullet holes.

Terror suspect Charkaoui gets high profile ally in son of late Canadian PM
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
April 7 2006
MONTREAL _ Terror suspect Adil Charkaoui appeared in Federal Court on Friday to ask that restrictions imposed on him following his release from detention be lifted and again denied he was tied to al-Qaida.

Charkaoui, 32, was arrested in 2003 and detained for 21 months on allegations
that he is a sleeper agent for Osama bin Laden's terror network. He was released on
bail in February 2005.

His release required that he obey certain conditions, including a curfew, having
to be accompanied by his mother or father outside his home and wearing an electronic
tracking bracelet.

More than a dozen people testified on his behalf and some offered to chaperone
him if the measures remain in place. Among them was Alexandre Trudeau, the son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who said Charkaoui was suffering unnecessarily as a result of the bail conditions.

"I don't think he's a threat to national security and the government
certainly hasn't proved that he might be," Trudeau said outside the federal
court. "We have no reason to listen to a government that says, `Trust us with
this, we know what's best for you.'"

Trudeau is a respected journalist who has supported similar cases and is working
on a documentary regarding Canada's so-called security certificates, which allows
Ottawa to detain terror suspects indefinitely, without trial and based on secret

"In this case there are many problems such as the non-presumption of
innocence and the burden of proof is on Mr. Charkaoui," Trudeau said. "But
without showing him the allegations against him, it's very problematic; he may as
well be bin Laden."

Charkaoui has argued that threats to deport him to his native Morocco are in
violation of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms as he would likely be tortured

Charkaoui said he has tried repeatedly to prove that he is not a terrorist.
"Thirty people have testified in my favor, I have taken four lie-detector
tests, I have condemned terrorism in open letters," he said. "I not only want
my freedom but to be cleared of all suspicion."

But convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam _ who was nabbed in 1999 trying to enter the
United States from Canada with a trunkload of explosives intended for an attack on
Los Angeles International Airport _ reportedly told authorities he had seen Charkaoui
at a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan in 1997 or 1998.

The security certificate, a highly contentious provision of Canada's Immigration
Act strengthened after the 9/11 terror attacks, means some evidence against Charkaoui
is known only by the government and Federal Justice Simon Noel.

Noel did not make a decision but asked Charkaoui's lawyer to come up with a list
of suggested changes to the release conditions for him to consider. He will likely
rule before the end of the month.


Rwanda President Kagame urges foreign investment, higher education at home
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
April 25 2006

MONTREAL _African countries that promote education and development in an effort to combat poverty in their nations must prevent a brain-drain of qualified professionals from the continent, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Tuesday.

Addressing the opening of a two-day conference on education and economic development in Africa, Kagame said the decline of higher education institutions was contributing to the emigration of Africans who were seeking better lives in other parts of the world.

"Africa must do more to retain these professionals," said the Rwandan leader, the guest of honor of the Canadian Council of Africa in Montreal.

Kagame said his country had seen a sharp increase in school enrollment in the last decade, but that the number of students attending university was still the lowest on the continent.
"We must invest in education across the board," he said.

The conference has drawn some 300 participants, including speakers from 25 African nations, to discuss the continent's education challenges and promote partnerships with Canada.

Kagame's visit has been closely followed by protesters who accuse him of repression at home and involvement in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda's neighbor, where many Rwandans fled during and after the 1994 genocide in their tiny central African homeland.

Kagame headed the Tutsi-led rebel force that ended the civil war. More than 500,000 people, mainly Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus lost their lives in the genocide orchestrated by the extremist-Hutu government then in power.

Rwanda went on to twice invade Congo, trying to root out Hutu militias. The second invasion, in 1998, sparked a five-year war in Congo that drew in six African countries. An estimated 3.5 million people died in the conflict, most from war-induced disease and starvation.

Some groups had called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to bar Kagame from Canada for alleged war crimes.

Outside the hotel where the conference was taking place, Kagame supporters on Tuesday waved Rwandan flags and chanted in the rain while beating drums next to dozens of vocal opponents holding signs that read: "Kagame Assassin" and "Africa's Hitler."

"We are here to raise awareness, we are not happy that Canada welcomed a criminal like Kagame," said Faustin Nsabimana of the Canadian Rwandan Congress.

A speech given by Kagame on Monday was also marked by protest when one man was wrestled to the ground and arrested after he jumped out of his seat and yelled: "You're a criminal. I love my country. Long live the Democratic Republic of Congo."

During the speech, Kagame told a gathering of some 250 business and diplomatic delegates at a dinner organized by the Counsel of International Relations, that his country's economy was booming and eager for international investment.

"Rwanda has left the times of strife behind and, today, she is enjoying unprecedented political and economic stability," he said in a glossy brochure handed out to potential investors.    
Haiti president-elect ends quiet visit to Canada
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
May 3 2006

MONTREAL (AP)_ Haiti's President-elect Rene Preval wrapped up an informal visit to Canada on Wednesday, insisting that he didn't come to plead for money, yet taking home another C$48 million (US$43 million) in aid.

Preval ended four days of meetings in Ottawa and the French-speaking province of Quebec saying he intends to put an end to visits by Haitian leaders in which they beg for foreign aid and instead focus on explaining the crisis facing the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.

"I have not come here asking for projects or money," he said after meeting with Premier Jean Charest of Quebec, home to some 120,000 Haitians. "I have come to explain. I have come to seek comprehension and friendship."

Preval, who was elected on Feb. 7 and will be sworn later this month, said he hoped to remain in power for five years, during which time he would push to give his impoverished Caribbean nation sound infrastructure and solid institutions.

"If after five years I could leave strong institutions, good conditions for investment and the framework for leading this country when I leave, I will be satisfied," he said.

Earlier this week, Preval met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Haitian-born Governor-General Michaelle Jean and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. He also visited Montreal, where he mingled with members of the city's Haitian community.

During the visit, Ottawa announced an additional financial assistance package of C$48 million (US$43 million) to promote good governance and democracy in Haiti, which recently held a runoff election to choose a new parliament.

The vote was seen as a test of legislative support for Preval and was carried out with little unrest, compared to presidential elections that had been postponed by violence and called two years after a revolt toppled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Haiti is the largest beneficiary of Canadian aid in the Americas. Over the last two years, Canada has spent more than C$190 million (US$171 million) funding reconstruction and development projects.
Peanut kiss didn't cause death, Coroner confirms
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
May 11, 2006

Montreal - A teenager believed to have died from a peanut allergy after kissing her boyfriend actually died from a severe asthma attack, a Quebec coroner revealed on Thursday.

Coroner Michel Miron said Christina Desforges, 15, died from cerebral anoxia, or lack of oxygen to the brain, triggered by a severe asthma attack.

The 15-year-old girl stopped breathing in the early morning of November 20, 2005, after kissing her boyfriend, who had eaten two pieces of toast with peanut butter about nine hours earlier.

The initial suspicion by doctors that lingering peanut allergens from that kiss triggered an allergic reaction was wrong, Miron said.

"Nine hours passed between the time when the young man ate his two toasts and 03:00, when he kissed Christina," Miron said. "A recent study shows at the end of an hour, there is no allergen left in the saliva."

Smoked pot

The girl had spent hours at a party with smokers at a home in Saguenay, Quebec, when her breathing problems began. She also had smoked pot in the previous hours, Miron added, another factor that can cause problems for asthma sufferers.

Around 03:00, Desforges told her boyfriend she was having trouble breathing. She went in the basement to get her inhaler, waking another boy as she stumbled down the stairs.

Once outside, she collapsed. The boys tried to resuscitate Desforges as she was being taken to the hospital, but the coroner estimates her brain was deprived of oxygen for 25 to 30 minutes. She was taken off life support nine days later.

Full coroner's report released

When the teen died, Quebec medical officials said doctors were unable to treat her allergic reaction to a peanut-laced kiss from her boyfriend.

In March, Miron broke the usual silence preceding the full release of a coroner's report to end those rumours and the "phobia" provoked by a case which drew global media coverage.

He said he was concerned the rumours were triggering suspicion that injections used to treat allergic reactions were ineffective, after fielding calls from concerned medical journals.

Some symptoms of peanut allergies, such as difficulties breathing from the swelling of the face and throat, can be confused with asthma attacks.

Asthma kills about 500 Canadians every year, according to the Asthma Society of Canada.

Society head Frank Viti said many asthma sufferers do not take their symptoms seriously.

"It's infuriating, because it's completely preventable," Viti said.
US says war on drugs turns to meth
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
May 12, 2006

MONTREAL (AP) -While marijuana remains the drug of choice and cocaine has been "the bane of our existence" in the global war on drugs, methamphetamine has now become a global threat, the head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration told a conference that ended Thursday.

Karen Tandy and representatives from 80 countries gathered in Montreal for four days to hash out new ways to fight the war on drugs at the 24th International Drug Enforcement Conference.
The closed-door conference ended Thursday, with a statement that emphasized the importance of global intelligence-sharing to fight the drugs, increasingly tied to terrorists.

The statement said international drug-enforcement cooperation made possible the arrest of high-level Afghan drug dealers who were giving monetary support to the Taliban, as well as the dismantling of major ecstasy and methamphetamine rings based in Canada and the United States.

"The global drug threat can be a daunting challenge, but conferences like IDEC reinforce that the call to fight stretches across thousands of miles, oceans, and boundaries," said Tandy.

In her opening address on Tuesday, Tandy said while cocaine "has been the bane of our existence and remains a persistent global challenge," the use of amphetamines had grown to 26 million people worldwide, more than the number of users of heroin and cocaine combined.

Methamphetamine, also known as speed or crank, is a highly addictive drug and easily made out of ingredients found at the local pharmacy and hardware store. Law enforcement agents across the United States now list it as their No. 1 drug threat because it is cheap and addictive.

Tandy noted the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime estimates the illegal drug market is valued at US$322 billion worldwide. "Thats higher than the gross domestic product of 88 percent of the countries in the world," she said.

The conference, which is closed to the media, took place in Canada for the first time, having been previously hosted by countries such as Panama, Mexico and Argentina. It will be held in Spain next year for its 25th anniversary.

As the IDEC opened Monday, protesters held a counter-conference in a nearby hotel a few blocks away to criticize America's war on drugs and condemn their prohibition.

The symposium brought together scholars and activists from Eastern Europe and the Americas, as well as former U.S. law-enforcement officers who spoke in favor of legalizing drugs after years spent busting criminals.

"The only thing we're accomplishing is filling our jails, because we're not keeping the drugs off the street," Terry Nelson, a Texas police officer for more than 30 years, told CBC TV. "The war on drugs is not working. It's broken and it needs to be fixed."

FIFA to push for world anti-doping standards
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
May 14, 2006
MONTREAL _ Fifa will push for its members to adopt the world anti-doping code in time for the World Cup next month, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) said on Sunday.

If the code is adopted at Fifa's congress before the start of the tournament on June 9 in Germany, the world's top soccer stars would be subject to two-year suspensions for serious doping violations instead of the lighter bans under Fifa rules.

Wada head Dick Pound said on Sunday that soccer's world governing body informed him that it would work to accept the code in time for the World Cup.

"The great thing about Fifa being onside is that it's the biggest, most important sport in the world," Pound said after two days of Wada meetings. "The World Cup is the only thing that rivals Olympic audiences.

"It's a tremendously strong message."

Wada and Fifa have been working out the details since last month, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland found Fifa was not in compliance with Wada's standards on eight points, including its penalties for failed drug tests.

Pound said seven of the eight points can be approved at a Fifa executive meeting and the last at a Fifa congress in Munich in the week leading up to the World Cup.

The two sides have been at odds for two years, with Fifa preferring a six-month minimum ban and to judge each case on its individual circumstances.

Australian PM: Diminished US will make world vulnerable to terror
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
05-18-06 2029EDT

OTTAWA (AP) -- Those who seek a diminished U.S. role in global affairs should be
careful what they wish for as it would leave the world more exposed to terror,
Australia's prime minister told the Canadian parliament on Thursday.

John Howard, a close U.S. ally in the war on terror, said the United States
represents a power for good.

"A retreating America will leave a more vulnerable world,'' Howard said in a
speech to lawmakers on the first day of a three-day visit here. "It will leave a
world more exposed to terrorism and will leave a more fragile and indeed dangerous

"The values for which the United States stand are the values to which Canada and
Australia stand,'' he said. "They are values of spreading democracy of individual
liberty and a society where free enterprise is the principal economic driver, but
also a society where the less fortunate should be protected by a decent social
security safety net.''

Howard is the first foreign leader to visit Prime Minister Stephen Harper since the
Canadian's election victory in January.

While both countries share the same head of state, Queen Elizabeth II, Howard's is
the first visit by an Australian leader in decades. By contrast, Howard has made
repeated visits to Washington, where his staunch support on the war on terror and
Iraq has been well received.

Unlike Australia, Canada did not take part in the war in Iraq, causing friction with
the U.S. But Harper's new Conservative minority government is closer to Washington
than its Liberal predecessor, quickly moving to settle a long-standing lumber
disagreement and espousing a conservative ideology closer to that of President Bush.

Howard and Harper are scheduled to talk about the war on terror and international
security. Both countries have troops in Afghanistan.

Howard is ending a weeklong visit to North America. He spent five days in the U.S.
where he held talks with Bush and key administration officials.

Canada considers moving away from Kyoto
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
05-19-06 19:43:31

GATINEAU, Quebec (AP) -- Efforts to curb greenhouse gas
emissions must involve the world's top polluters, Canada and
Australia's leaders said Friday, an indication that Canada
is considering joining a partnership of countries fighting
climate change outside the Kyoto Protocol.

Australia, which has not ratified the Kyoto accord, has been
encouraging Canada to join the Asian-Pacific Partnership on
climate change to promote new technologies. The group
includes the United States, China and India, which are
either not part of the Kyoto Protocol or have no emissions
targets, as well as Japan and South Korea.
The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce overall greenhouse gas
emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels.

After meeting with Australian Prime Minister John Howard in
a mansion in the Gatineau hills some 15 miles (24
kilometers) north of Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper
said, "We believe it's the kind of initiative the world

"If we're serious about climate change and controlling
greenhouse gases, we clearly have to have an international
regime that includes the largest emitters," Harper said.

"We in Canada certainly welcome the initiative, as a
government that finds itself 35 percent behind existing
Kyoto targets and with the need to do something," Harper
said, adding he had discussed the possibility of joining the

Under the former ruling Liberal party, Canada strongly
defended the Kyoto protocol when it hosted an international
environment conference in Montreal in December, but the
newly elected conservatives of Stephen Harper have been less
supportive of Kyoto.

"Our attitude is we want to engage the international
community on any level that's going to get real progress and
involve everybody," Harper said.

Howard said his country would "warmly welcome" Canada if it
were to join in. The partnership explores combating global
warming through technological development rather than
mandatory emissions cuts. Howard said countries are
reluctant to sacrifice their economies to curb emissions.

Harper and Howard, whose countries account for 43 percent of
the world's uranium deposits and more than half its uranium
production, also said they will be studying the U.S.
Department of Energy's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership
that suggests using nuclear energy to meet the growing
demand for electricity.

They said nuclear energy would have an important role in
dealing with their respective energy and environmental
challenges in the years ahead.

"We don't approach this American-inspired proposal with
antagonism, we approach it with interest," Howard said,
stressing there was pressure in his country to make use of
nuclear energy to ease the concerns related to the
environment and high energy prices.

On the second day of Howard's three-day visit to Canada, the
leaders also discussed international security and their
military role in Afghanistan, as well as the environment and
Asia-Pacific region.
Nobel Laureate urges better resource management to prevent wars
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
May 24, 2006

MONTREAL (AP) The world can avoid conflict by better managing its limited resources, Nobel Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai told a global conference of educators on Tuesday.

The Kenyan professor, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on environmental conservation, told the opening of the 58th Annual Conference of the Association of
International Educators that managing resources more responsibly and sharing them more equitably can pre-empt future crises around the world.

"There is a limited amount of resources on the planet and when you have excess, it is
at the expense of others" she told the gathering of some 7,000 participants from 90 countries meeting in Montreal until Friday.

"We don't have to go to war, kill each other, destroy each other, destroy each others countries, and then sit down around the table to try to look for peace" said the founder of the Green Belt Movement, which led to the planting of 30 million trees throughout Kenya.

The conference has brought together educators, administrators, policy experts and world leaders to exchange ideas under this year's theme: Advancing Our International Commitment.

Participants stressed the need for international education exchanges, particularly to better understand the post-9/11 world.

"The idea is the more we connect across borders the better off we will be as a planet," said Ursula Oaks, a NAFSA spokeswoman.

Other notable participants include Mary Robinson, Ireland's first woman president, and the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi.


Right to detain terror suspects indefinitely challenged
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer

Right to detain terror suspects indefinitely in Canada challenged in Supreme Court
The Associated Press, June 12, 2006

OTTAWA - Opponents of a Canadian immigration law that allows authorities to detain terror suspects indefinitely without trial were preparing to challenge it before Canada's Supreme Court, as the country reels from the recent arrests of an alleged homegrown terrorist ring.

Opponents say the law violates the country's Charter of Rights and Freedoms in part because it allows for lengthy detentions based on secret evidence and without the right to appeal.

Five Arab Muslim men, held for years under "security certificates" that deem them a threat to national security, face deportation on suspicion of terrorist activities. The men claim they are innocent and face torture if returned to their native Algeria, Morocco, Syria and Egypt.

Human rights and immigration lawyers will argue Tuesday before Canada's highest court, challenging the constitutionality, conditions of detention and undisclosed evidence against the men under the provision of Canada's Immigration Act.

"The way the system is set up violates fundamental justice," said Paul Copeland, a lawyer for Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian and one of three men challenging the certificate process.

"These cases will help determine whether Canada follows the lawless American approach on national security or creates a uniquely Canadian path in conformity with the principles of international justice," he said.

Harkat, Adil Charkaoui and Hassan Almrei, the three men taking their cases to the Supreme Court, are all accused by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of having ties to al-Qaida.

So are two other detainees, Mohammad Mahjoub and Mahmoud Jaballah, who are not part of the current challenge but whose fates likely rest on the outcome.

Charkaoui, 32, was released on US$42,000 bail last year after 21 months in detention, on allegations that he is a sleeper agent for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

Charkaoui, who is the main appellant, denies the connection and argues that security certificates are unconstitutional and violate the Charter, as well as international law.

"I am heading to the Supreme Court with optimism," Charkaoui said in a statement. "Despite the difficulty, we have succeeded in bringing this issue to the fore and gaining an impressive level of support, both in Canada and internationally."

If the security certificate, which can only be applied to foreigners, is upheld in court, Charkaoui could be deported to his native Morocco, where he fears torture.

Charkaoui remains constrained by strict bail regulations, including a tracking bracelet. He had to obtain special permission to travel to Ottawa from Montreal to attend his challenge.

The court will also consider the cases of two men detained in Kingston, Ontario: Harkat, the Algerian who was arrested in Ottawa in December 2002, and Syrian-born Hassan Almrei, who has been detained since 2001.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and many other international and Canadian groups have claimed the security certificates have resulted in violations of fundamental human rights. A U.N. committee on arbitrary detention last year expressed grave concern about the detentions without the right to a fair hearing.

Federal lawyers, in their written brief to the Supreme Court, defend the process as essential to safeguard intelligence sources, including those of allied countries that share material with Canada, most notably the United States.

"There is no right to an unfettered disclosure of all information on which a security certificate is based," the brief states. In fact, revealing details could "fatally jeopardize international cooperation in the sharing of vital information."

Terrorism-related cases have become the focus of great scrutiny in Canada, since the arrest of 17 men and teenagers on June 2 for allegedly plotting attacks in Ontario.

Some observers fear the current climate of public apprehension could impact the high court decision, which is not expected for several months.

"Judges are human beings, the same way anyone else is; obviously they read the news," said lawyer Barbara Jackman, who represents Almrei and will address the Supreme Court. "Of course it's going to impact in some way."

Supreme Court hears challenge to indefinite terror-related detentions
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
2006-06-14 11:13
OTTAWA - Three Arab men challenged Canada's policy toward foreign-born terror suspects before the Supreme Court, arguing that detaining them for years or deporting them back to their homelands to possibly face torture violates the constitution.

The three-day hearing, which opened Tuesday, comes on the heels of 17 arrests that foiled a plot to launch homegrown terrorist attacks.

Mohamed Harkat, Adil Charkaoui and Hassan Almrei are accused by the Canadian intelligence service of having ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. The men say they are innocent and have spent years in detention as the government determines whether they should be deported.

The men fear they will be tortured or killed if forced to return to their native countries of Algeria, Morocco and Syria, respectively.

Under Canada's hotly debated ''security certificate'' program, the federal government can detain and deport immigrants without charge, and without providing them or their lawyers with evidence, if they are deemed a threat to national security.

A slew of civil libertarians and human rights advocates joined attorneys for the three men Tuesday in arguing against the detentions before the court.

Edward Greenspan of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association urged the justices to avoid being influenced by public anxiety over terrorism.

''We must realize that the greatest danger to our institutions may rest not in the threat of subversion, but in our own weakness in yielding to wartime anxiety and our readiness to disregard the fundamental rights of the individual,'' he said.

Douglas Elliott, representing the Canadian Arab Federation, noted that the five men held under the certificates are Arab Muslims, which he said smacked of racial profiling.

''Arabs in Canada live in a society where stereotypes have been reduced to a single equation: Arab equals Muslim, and Muslim equals terrorist,'' he said.

Lawyers for the men also challenged the conditions of their detention and the government's refusal to disclose the evidence against them or their attorneys.

''Cases should be heard fully and publicly by an independent and impartial court,'' Johanne Doyon, an attorney representing Moroccan-born Charkaoui, told the nine-judge bench.

Federal law allows sensitive intelligence information to be heard behind closed doors by a federal judge, with only sketchy summaries given to defense attorneys.

If those foreigners choose to fight deportation, they can spend years in jail while the cases go through the courts. In the end, they risk being labeled as terrorists and stigmatized by flimsy evidence, said Doyon. ''There may be consequences that last a lifetime.'' Two other detainees, Mohammad Mahjouband Mahmoud Jaballah, are not part of the current challenge but their fates likely rest on the outcome. Both are Egyptian.

Charkaoui, 32, was released on US$42,000 bail last year after 21 months in detention on allegations he is a sleeper agent for al-Qaida. He denies the connection but fears he will be tortured if he is deported to his native Morocco.

''We cannot allow Guantanamo in Canada,'' he said outside the courtroom ''I don't just want to be free _ I want justice.'' Harkat was released on bail last month after more than three years behind bars. Like Charkaoui, he must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and follow strict bail terms.

Almrei, a native of Syria who has been detained since 2001, remains in jail, as do Mahjoub and Jaballah.

Barbara Jackman, representing Almrei, said her client is in a maximum security facility with no access to a canteen, education or other programs that convicted prisoners are able to use.

''You can't just put someone in jail, throw away the key and not give them any hope of getting out,'' she said.

Federal lawyers, in their written brief to the Supreme Court, defend the process as essential to safeguard intelligence sources and Canada's allies. They allege Almrei was involved in an international forgery ring and should be deported.

''Given the threat posed by the ability of terrorists to travel on fraudulent documentation and al-Qaida's preference for operatives to carry Canadian and other passports, rather than Middle Eastern ones, Almrei's detention helps disrupt the procurement and distribution of such passports,'' the brief read.
Canadian-Lebanese outraged over deaths
The Associated Press
Jul 17th - 7:40pm

Relatives of the Canadian-Lebanese family killed in an Israeli air strike in southern Lebanon lashed out at the Canadian government Monday, saying it had not done enough to protect its citizens from the violence nor demanded an end to Israeli aggression.
Eight Canadian members of the family of Ali El-Akhras, a Montreal pharmacist, were killed as a result of the attack on Sunday, relatives in Montreal said. Three other Lebanese members of the same family were also killed, they said.

The Canadians were vacationing in their family's home in the village of Aitarun near the Israeli border at the time of the air strike.

Akhras was wounded and died on Monday, his cousin in Montreal, Ibrahim Balbaki, said. His wife Amira, their four children - Saja, Zeinab, Ahmad and Salam - his mother Hania and his cousin Ali all died in the blast on Sunday. His father, Ahmad, was badly injured.

Meyssoun Akhras, the sister of El-Akhras, told a news conference in Montreal Monday she was outraged that Canada has stood behind Israel and not done more to protect Canadians.

"They have all died in one single room," she said between tears, shaking with anger. "I pray now that they are all in heaven."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has supported Israel's right to defend itself from the Hezbollah attacks since the Islamic militants captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others last Wednesday. Israel responded by unleashing a six-day air and sea barrage across Lebanon which has killed at least 210 people in Lebanon. In Israel, 24 have died.

"I ask the prime minister to be on our side and to speak the truth, to speak the truth of Israel, and to say that Israel has come into my home, that Hezbollah was protecting my house," Akhras said.

Canada is a close ally of Israel, but also supports the Palestinian quest for a homeland.

Harper, on the final day of the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Monday, countered criticism that Canada has been slow to evacuate some 40,000 Canadian citizens from Lebanon. He said Ottawa would have six commercial ships off the Lebanese coast by midweek.

He said the return of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, not an immediate cease-fire, was the key to ending the current conflict.

"We are not going to give in to the temptation of some to single out Israel, which was the victim of the initial attack," Harper said. "The onus remains on the parties that caused the conflict to take steps to end the conflict. But obviously we urge Israel and others to minimize civilian damage."

Canada's Lebanese community in Montreal numbers about 50,000.
Canada scrambles to get historic evacuation under way
The Associated Press

Six chartered passenger ships were to be in position off the coast of Lebanon on Wednesday to begin evacuating up to 30,000 Canadians stranded in the crossfire there, in what could become the biggest evacuation of its citizens in Canadian history.

There are as many as 50,000 Canadian-Lebanese in Lebanon, but many of them have dual citizenship and live in Lebanon, so it was unclear how many would want to be evacuated.
Foreign Affairs officials said Canadians would be evacuated by ship from the port of Beirut. Authorities intend to evacuate some 4,500 a day, ferrying them to Cyprus, an island nation about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of Lebanon in the Mediterranean Sea, where three aircraft have been leased to fly them home.

Kim Girtel, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs, said about 30,000 Canadians in Lebanon have now registered with the embassy in Beirut. She acknowledged the evacuation will take time.

"It would be nice if we could Star Trek them out, but it's going to take time," she said. "Priority goes to people in greatest need."

Ottawa announced Tuesday that citizens would not have to pay for the evacuation, a relief for many who already have lost vacations - and some family members - in the weeklong fighting between Israel and Hezbollah militants based in southern Lebanon.

A Montreal family lost eight members, including four young children, on Sunday to an Israeli missile attack. They were all in one home near the southern border of Lebanon.

Many of Canada's 150,000 Lebanese live in French-speaking Montreal. Several hundred demonstrated in front of the Israel Embassy on Tuesday.

Lebanese-born member of Parliament Maria Mourani was among them.

"This is not an attack against Hezbollah, it's an attack against all Lebanese people," she said. "Canada always had an image of peace and dialogue, to strike a balance. Canada has lost this image with Mr. Harper."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has infuriated many in the Lebanese community by repeatedly supporting Israel's right to protect itself, and couching his calls for restraint by noting that Hezbollah started the conflict by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.

Hassan Al-Akhras - a cousin of the Montreal pharmacist who was killed in the Israeli airstrike, along with his mother, wife and four children and another cousin - said he would demand an investigation into why Canadians were not evacuated sooner.

"This is criminal," he told the AP in Montreal. "I want those responsible to be brought before the courts, starting with Mr. Harper. What are we, second-class citizens? Is he the prime minister of Israel or Canada? He failed his mandate; Harper put the rights of Israelis before those of Canadians."

Harper, in France on Tuesday on his way back from the G8 summit in Russia over the weekend, denied claims that Ottawa had been too slow to act.

"There have been hundreds of federal employees who have been working day and night to put in place the largest evacuation of Canadian citizens from another country in our history," Harper said. "This, under the circumstances, will be done extraordinarily quickly."

Canadian officials say they are seeking assurances of safe passage through southern Lebanon to Beirut from all "belligerents" in the crisis.

Sources told The Canadian Press that a military reconnaissance squad was dispatched Monday to Lebanon to provide security and logistical advice for the evacuation.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said the government is also seeking assurances from Israel and Lebanon that the ships carrying Canadians will not be targeted.

Opposition critics in Parliament have accused the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper of reacting sluggishly to the plight of Canadians trapped in Lebanon.

France, Italy, Sweden and Denmark began evacuating their citizens Monday, and the United States began evacuating some of the estimated 25,000 Americans in Lebanon on Tuesday.

AP correspondent Phil Couvrette in Montreal contributed to this report.
Canada ends evacuations from Lebanon despite criticisms
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
07-29-06 04:00 PM EST

MONTREAL (AP)--On the day Canada conducted the last large-scale removal of its citizens from war-torn Lebanon, Liberal opposition politicians criticized the end of the evacuations and said the country's current foreign policy threatened its credibility as a possible mediator in the Middle East.

Four ships were sent to evacuate Canadians on Saturday, bringing the total to over 13,000 people that Canada has removed from the country since evacuations began 10 days ago. The embassy has registered some 40,000 Canadians living in Lebanon.

Opposition members of parliament called for the continuation of the evacuation and said Canada should do more to reunite families.

"One can't stop evacuations like that. It's totally unacceptable, it's a lack of compassion," said Liberal lawmaker Denis Coderre. "We're talking about human lives not statistics."

The Liberal parliamentarians called for an immediate cease-fire to the hostilities and for the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to help evacuees.

Canada's first evacuees were rescued by boat from Beirut on July 19, days after the beginning of Israeli-Hezbollah hostilities.

A slow start to the Canadian operation triggered a firestorm of criticism of the government's handling of the crisis, including accusations that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office micromanaging the evacuations. Other observers say the government did its best given it was faced with the second largest number of evacuees next to the U.S.

Harper has infuriated many in the Lebanese community by repeatedly supporting Israel's right to protect itself, and couching his calls for restraint by noting that Hezbollah started the conflict by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers.

This week Harper maintained his stance after Israel bombed a U.N. observation post killing three and leaving one Canadian missing and presumed dead. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested Israel deliberately targeted the U.N. outpost despite repeated calls to stop the attacks, but Harper said he didn't believe that was the case.

"We believe that the right to defend does not mean that you have carte blanche," Coderre said.

"Canada has a fair-minded principle-based foreign policy and if we are not doing that we won't be able to keep our role as mediator," he said. "Canada must play a leader's role and stop being a mouthpiece for president Bush or Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice."

Coderre said the opposition was awaiting a session of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee this week to shed some light on Canada's slow response.

Opposition leader Gilles Duceppe also called for Canada to return to its traditional role of peacekeeper in the Middle East and to "a more balanced position in the conflict."
Montreal kicks off Outgames
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Sunday July 30, 2006

MONTREAL (AP) -- The acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil, songs from musical stars such as k.d. lang and a little politics officially kicked off the First World Outgames in Montreal's Olympic stadium.

Some 12,000 participants from over 100 countries are taking part in 35 athletic events that run until Aug. 5, but with disciplines that include bridge, ice hockey and dragon boat regatta, in addition to swimming, basketball and track and field, this is not your ordinary sports competition.

The events are not exclusive to gays and any records set during competition will stand, but organizers say it is more about mass participation than breaking records.

Some 30,000 loud spectators attended the opening ceremonies late Saturday night, dancing to club diva Martha Wash's rendition of "It's Raining Men," hooting as the muscular men of Cirque du Soleil interpreted a balancing act called "Hand in Hand" and cheering as Canadian Olympian Mark Tewksbury and tennis champion Martina Navratilova read excerpts from a new declaration calling for the recognition of universal gay rights.

"Long live liberty in diversity," they both yelled to a cheering crowd. "I remember a time when I swam at the Olympics and felt all alone," said Tewksbury, who only made his sexual orientation public after he quit competition, fearing discrimination. "I don't feel that way anymore."

The sports competitions are part of a greater gathering that includes an international conference on gay and lesbian rights to promote "social change through sports."

The rights conference, held July 26 to 29, was launched in the presence of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, and included some 1,600 participants in over 200 workshops. The event included the drafting of the Montreal Declaration, which calls from protection against gay bashing and promotes freedom of expression and will be submitted to the United Nations.

Participants from countries where being gay is a criminal offense made a special entrance Saturday night to loud cheers and ovations.

"I know some of you are from nations in which one's sexual orientation could lead to prison sentence or even death," said Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay. "Your presence encourages us to continue to work for a better world."

The crowd, however, shouted down a federal minister to protest the absence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the games. His conservative government is also seeking to review Canada's gay marriage legislation. Canada legalized same-sex marriage nationwide last year under another government.

The Outgames come on the heels of the seventh Gay Games in Chicago, which Montreal was originally slated to host but turned down after a dispute by organizers who went on to stage their own games.

While the Outgames have roughly the same number of events and participants as the Chicago gay games, nearly twice as many countries are participating.

"There are so many countries in the world where being gay is not only punishable by justice but punishable by death," Navratilova said during a visit at Montreal's city hall.

"We're worried about equal rights as a same-sex couple in America, where in other countries people are worried about staying alive because they're gay."

Tewksbury says correspondence with gays in countries such as Nigeria had to be made in complete confidentiality by fear participants' lives would be in jeopardy.

Coming on the 30th anniversary of the 1976 Olympics, the Outgames are the largest athletic events the city has hosted since then.

The Outgames conclude with a closing ceremony at Olympic stadium on Aug. 5 featuring a performance by Liza Minnelli.

Small plane crashes near Montreal
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2006; 9:30 PM

MONTREAL -- A single-engine plane crashed into a residential area south of Montreal island on Tuesday, hitting vehicles and injuring six people _ two in the plane and four on the road, police said.

The plane was left belly-up with a broken wing on the south shore of Montreal.
"The plane made an emergency landing and hit four vehicles when it crashed," said Pierre Quintal of Longueuil police.

"Six people were injured, including the pilot of the plane and the passenger, who suffered minor injuries."

The other four injured people were in vehicles on the road, police said, adding the injuries were not life-threatening.

Several streets in the area were cordoned off.

One witness interviewed by TVA network said he saw the plane swooping low near the airport and could not hear its engine before it crashed into a sport utility vehicle.

Other witnesses said the plane seemed to be having trouble steering and was closing in on a nearby airfield in the wrong direction.

Sunny conditions suggested the weather was not a factor.

The crash followed the spectacular landing of a Cessna plane on a major Montreal thoroughfare following engine failure over the weekend. Nobody was injured in that incident.

Montreal shooting rampage kills student
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Wed Sep 13, 7:33 PM ET

MONTREAL - A man in a black trench coat and a mohawk haircut opened fire Wednesday at a downtown Montreal college, slaying a young woman and wounding at least 19 other people before police shot and killed him, witnesses and authorities said.
Police dismissed suggestions that terrorism played a role in the lunch-hour attack at Dawson College, where scores of panicked students fled into the streets after the shooting began. Some had clothes stained with blood; others cried and clung to each other. Two nearby shopping centers and a daycare center also were evacuated.

"I was terrified. The guy was shooting at people randomly. He didn't care, he was just shooting at everybody," said student Devansh Smri Vastava. "There were cops firing. It was so crazy."

Witnesses said the attacker started firing outside the college before walking in the front door. Much of the shooting was in the second-floor cafeteria, where students dropped to the floor and lay in terror. At times the gunman hid behind vending machines before emerging to take aim - at one point at a teenager who tried to photograph him with his cell phone. Teachers ran through the halls, telling everyone to get out of the building.

Police rushed to the scene, hiding behind a wall as they exchanged fire with the gunman, whose back was against a vending machine, said student Andrea Barone, who was in the cafeteria. He said the officers proceeded cautiously because many students were trapped around the assailant, who yelled "Get back! Get back!" every time an officer tried to move closer.

Eventually, Barone said, the gunman went down in hail of gunfire.

Authorities did not provide any information about the attacker. Police spokesman Ean Lafreniere said there was just one gunman at the school and the search for any others was over.

Although police initially suggested the gunman had killed himself, Police Director Yvan DeLorme later said at a news conference that "based on current information, the suspect was killed by police."

Police with guns drawn stood behind a police cruiser as a SWAT team swarmed the 12-acre campus. The attacker's bloody body, covered in a yellow sheet, lay next to a police cruiser near an entrance to a school building.

Montreal General Hospital said 11 people were admitted, including eight who were in critical condition. The nine others were taken to two other hospitals. One young woman later died, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the victim's next-of-kin had not yet been notified.

"Today we have witnessed a cowardly and senseless act of violence unfold at Montreal's Dawson College," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. "Our primary concern right now is to ensure the safety and recovery of all those who were injured during this tragedy."

The shooting recalled the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, where two students wearing trench coats killed 13 people before committing suicide.

Canada's worst mass shooting also happened in Montreal. Gunman Marc Lepine killed 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnic on Dec. 6, 1989, before shooting himself.

The 25-year-old Lepine roamed the halls of the school firing a rifle, specifically targeting women whom he claimed in a suicide note had ruined his life. Nine other women and four men were wounded.

That shooting spurred efforts for new gun laws and greater awareness of societal violence - particularly domestic abuse. Canada's tighter gun law was achieved mainly as the results of efforts by survivors and relatives of Lepine's victims.

Dawson is more of a pre-college division than a traditional university. It was the first English-language institution in Quebec's network of university preparatory colleges when it was founded in 1969. With about 10,000 students, it is the largest college of general and vocational education, known by its French acronym CEGEP, in the province.

Witnesses to Wednesday's attack said a man wearing a black trench coat entered the school cafeteria and opened fire without uttering a word.

Derick Osei, 19, said he was walking down the stairs to the cafeteria when he saw a man with a gun.

"He ... just started shooting up the place. I ran up to the third floor and I looked down and he was still shooting," Osei said. "He was hiding behind the vending machines and he came out with a gun and started pointing and pointed at me. So I ran up the stairs. I saw a girl get shot in the leg."

Osei said people in the cafeteria were all lying on the floor.

"I saw the gunman who was dressed in black and at that time he was shooting at people," student Michel Boyer told CTV. "I immediately hit the floor. It was probably one of the most frightening moments of my life."

"He was shooting randomly, I didn't know what he was shooting at, but everyone was screaming, Get out of the building!" Boyer said. "Everybody was in tears. Everybody was so worried for their own safety for their own lives."

Raamias Hernandez, 19, said he had just finished his class when he saw everyone start to run.

He said the gunman was dressed in a black jacket and had a mohawk haircut. Hernandez said he started to take pictures with his cell phone with his friend and the suspect saw them and started shooting.

Vastava said he saw a man in military fatigues with "a big rifle" storm the cafeteria.

"He just started shooting at people," Vastava said, adding that he heard about 20 shots fired. He also said teachers ran through the halls telling students to get out. "We all ran upstairs."

Barone, 17, said he was sitting in the cafeteria with his girlfriend and some friends when he heard some shots.

"At first I thought it was a firecracker," he said. "Then I turned around and I saw him. He was dressed in a black trench coat and I saw his hand firing a handgun in every direction."

Barone said a police officer emerged from a corner next to the cafeteria and fired a shot in the direction of the gunman no more than several yards away and missed him. Five or six more police officers showed up, he said. Barone said it was like a running battle with five or six shots fired in both directions every minute.

After police eventually killed the gunman, the officers helped the students leave the cafeteria, crawling out on their bellies along a wall.

Barone said as they were crawling out toward an exit they saw a girl who had been shot in the torso and who was face down surrounded by a pool of blood.

He said officers told them: "Don't look, don't look. Keep going out."

Police say Montreal gunman killed self
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Thu Sep 14, 7:03 PM ET

MONTREAL - A 25-year-old man who mounted a deadly shooting rampage at a downtown Montreal college had posted pictures of himself on the Internet with a rifle and said he was feeling "crazy" and "postal" and was drinking whiskey hours before the attack.

The man, identified by police as Kimveer Gill, also said on a blog that he liked to play a role-playing Internet game about the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado and wanted to die "in a hail of gunfire."

In the end, Gill dressed in a black trench coat like the Columbine shooters put his own gun to his head and pulled the trigger during a shootout with officers at Dawson College on Wednesday, police said.

Gill, wielding a rapid-fire rifle and two other weapons, had already wounded 20 other people by the time he took his own life. One of his victims, an 18-year-old woman, later died. Four others remained in critical condition Thursday, including three in extremely critical condition and one in a deep coma.

The Internet postings and neighbors' accounts reveal an angry, solitary young man who lived with his mother in Laval, near Montreal. He sported a mohawk, dressed in black and was filled with hatred for everyone from jocks to preppies and everything from country music to hip-hop. He once worked for a carpet company and more recently an auto parts business.

"Work sucks ... school sucks ... life sucks ... what else can I say? ... Life is a video game you've got to die sometime," he wrote in his profile for a Web site called

Authorities searched Gill's home Wednesday evening and seized his computer and other belongings.

"I don't know what they found in the computer," said a woman who answered the phone at Gill's home and said she was his mother. "They took everything."

She described her son as "a good man."

"Just ask anybody. Ask the neighbors. He was a good son," the woman told The Associated Press. She refused to give her name.

A neighbor across the street said he was a loner.

"There were never any friends," Louise Leykauf said. "He kept to himself. He always wore dark clothing."

Another neighbor, Mariola Trutschnigg, said she noticed a changed in his appearance in recent months when he "started wearing a mohawk and black clothes."

In postings on, blogs in Gill's name show more than 50 photos depicting the young man in various poses holding a rifle or a knife and wearing a black trench coat and combat boots.

One photo has a tombstone bearing his name and the epitaph: "Lived fast died young. Left a mangled corpse."

The last of six journal entries Wednesday was posted at 10:41 a.m, about two hours before Gill died at Dawson.

He said on the site that he felt "crazy" and was drinking whiskey that morning and described his mood as "postal" the night before.

"Whiskey in the morning, mmmmmm, mmmmmmmmm, good !! :)," he wrote.

"His name is Trench. you will come to know him as the Angel of Death," Gill wrote at another point on his profile. "He is not a people person. He has met a handful of people in his life who are decent. But he finds the vast majority to be worthless, no good, conniving, betraying, lying, deceptive."

This inscription is below a picture of Gill aiming a gun at the camera: "I think I have an obbsetion (sic) with guns ... muahahaha."

"Anger and hatred simmers within me," said another caption below a picture of Gill grimacing.

He wrote that he is 6-foot-1, was born in Montreal and is of Indian heritage. It was unclear whether he meant east Indian or American Indian, but Gill is a common name in India.

He said his weakness is laziness and that he fears nothing. Responding to the question, "How do you want to die?" Gill replied "like Romeo and Juliet or in a hail of gunfire."

Gill repeatedly said on his blogs that he loved black trench coats. He wore a black trench coat during the shooting and opened fire in the cafeteria just as Columbine students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris did in 1999.

He also maintained an online blog, similar to Klebold and Harris, devoted to Goth culture, heavy metal music such as Marilyn Manson, guns and journal entries expressing hatred against authority figures and "society."

He said he liked to play "Super Columbine Massacre," an Internet-based computer game that simulates the April 20, 1999, shootings at the Colorado high school when Klebold and Harris killed 13 people and then themselves.

Gill complained that a video shooting game, "Postal 2," was too childish. He wanted one that allowed him to kill more and go "beserk."

"I want them to make a game so realistic, that it looks and feels like it's actually happening," he wrote in his blog.

Danny Ledonne, the creator of "Super Columbine Massacre," posted a message of sympathy on his site.

"I am, like most, saddened by the news of the recent shooting at Dawson College. I extend my condolences to those affected by this painful event," Ledonne wrote.

A 23-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl accused in a triple murder in Medicine Hat, Alberta, earlier this year also had profiles on

Montreal Police Chief Yvan Delorme said the lessons learned from other mass shootings had taught police to try to stop such assaults as quickly as possible.

"Before our technique was to establish a perimeter around the place and wait for the SWAT team. Now the first police officers go right inside. The way they acted saved lives," he said.

Delorme said some officers were at the school on an unrelated matter when the shooting began and reinforcements were sent in.

Witnesses said Gill started shooting outside the college, then entered the second-floor cafeteria and opened fire without uttering a word. Anastasia DeSousa, 18, of Montreal was killed.

Police initially said Gill shot himself but later Wednesday they said they thought officers killed Gill during an exchange of fire. On Thursday, however, Francois Dore of the Quebec provincial police said "preliminary results of the autopsy showed that he died of self-inflicted wounds." Dore said police shot Gill in the arm before he turned his gun on himself.

Canada's worst mass shooting took place in Montreal when gunman Marc Lepine, 25, killed 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnic on Dec. 6, 1989, before shooting himself.

That shooting spurred efforts for new gun laws achieved mainly as the results of efforts by survivors and relatives of Lepine's victims.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was too early to begin questioning how tougher gun control laws might have averted Wednesday's rampage, but that current laws clearly did not work. "The laws we have didn't prevent this tragedy, which is why our government will be in the future because of this incident and many others looking to make our laws more effective," Harper said.

Canadian laws prohibit the possession of unregistered handguns, and the rules for ownership of registered guns are stringent. Many politicians and police contend illegal guns flowing across the U.S.-Canada border are behind a recent spike in firearm violence.


Montrealers mourn student victim
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Fri Sep 15, 8:38 PM ET

MONTREAL - Students shared hugs, knelt to say prayers and wept openly Friday at the entrance of Dawson college, where a makeshift flower-covered shrine was steadily growing as the city paused to take stock of this week's school shooting.
As flags flew at half-staff across the city, people left flowers and collected their thoughts in silence in various spots around the perimeter of the school.

Twenty-five year-old Kimveer Gill, dressed in a trench coat and sporting a mohawk, went on a shooting rampage Wednesday on Dawson's campus of 10,000 students, killing a young woman and wounding 19 people before taking his own life when cornered by police.

Near the entrance where some of the shooting took place, a poster with a picture of the only person killed in the spree, 18-year-old Anastasia De Souza, carried the words, "We miss you Anna." Another sign said, "To the victims and the families, you are in our hearts."

Workers scrambled inside to get the college ready to reopen for classes next week, but some students indicated returning would not be easy.

"I think a lot of people aren't gonna come back on Monday," said Melody Tousignant, 18. "All of my friends are saying that they can't do it. ... Everybody is so traumatized by what happened."

Karine-Josee Igartua, director of psychiatric emergency services, said Montreal General Hospital had received some 150 calls since the shooting, half of them from people in distress looking for psychological support.

She said that complaints of stress, anxiety and insomnia were normal given the circumstances.

"The reaction is intense but it is normal after such an abnormal event," she said. "Our sense of security has been shaken."

Igartua said drop-in centers were being opened for people seeking help and expected some students to feel apprehensive about returning to school next week.

The hospital reported that one more shooting victim was discharged Friday, and two patients were moved from intensive care to the hospital's regular ward. Seven wounded, of the 11 originally brought in, remained in the hospital, including two who were in critical condition. All had sustained bullet wounds.

Mayor Gerald Tremblay invited mourners to sign a book of condolences at city hall through Sunday.


WADA holds off on hypoxic chamber ban
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, September 16, 2006 ·  7:55 p.m.

MONTREAL -- The World Anti-Doping Agency held off on banning the use of hypoxic chambers, but asked that studies look further into health implications.

Hypoxic or hyperbaric tents and chambers are used by many athletes to replicate high-altitude conditions and boost levels of oxygen-rich red blood cells.

WADA's ethics committee ruled Saturday that the chambers enhance performance and violate "the spirit of sport" but the executive committee refrained from adding them to their list of prohibited substances and methods for 2007 during its meeting Saturday.

"It doesn't mean we approve it," WADA head Dick Pound said.

He noted that with the current information available, putting it on the list was not warranted.

"Some people under some conditions, yes, you can obtain some performance-enhancing effect, but not in all," Pound said. "We are however concerned that there may be some potential danger of a medical nature."

WADA said it asked the IOC medical commission to look into the issue of health effects.

WADA's Scientific director, Olivier Rabin, said that side-effects of using the chambers could include altitude-sickness as well as sleep disturbance and could affect the response of the immune system.

Pound also called "tremendously encouraging" the decision by former members of Lance Armstrong's United States Postal Service cycling team to come forward and admit that they used the performance-enhancing drug EPO to prepare for the Tour de France in 1999.

Pound praised that such personal initiatives by athletes could help the fight against doping in sport.

"I hope it continues and we certainly encourage it," he said.

On Thursday Pound said he had full confidence in doping tests for EPO, which produced an initial positive finding for Marion Jones but came back negative in the backup sample.

Pound said WADA would look into all the documents in the Jones' case to determine if there were any mistakes after it asked the Los Angeles laboratory that analyzed her samples to provide them. It considers this process "standard procedure when samples don't match."

Pound also regretted that it was "taking more time than we would like" for countries to ratify the UNESCO convention on doping. Only 17 countries have ratified the treaty so far; at least 30 are required for adoption.

WADA said it would commit $5.4 million this year to scientific research that aims to identify and detect doping substances and methods, bringing the total amount of research since 2001 to $27 million.

Montreal students return after shooting
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Monday, September 18, 2006; 6:20pm
Students respectfully made a path through flowers forming a makeshift shrine and entered Dawson College for the first time since last week's shooting which killed one student and injured 19 others.

At 12:41 p.m. EST, the time the shooting started last Wednesday, hundreds of students started a symbolic entry, under the applause of onlookers, through the entrance where some of the violence had taken place, reclaiming their school from the tragedy that had left Sept. 13th etched in their memory.

One day before classes formally resume, they were allowed to collect books and other items that were left behind in the panic that broke out when a lone gunman started firing indiscriminately.

Kimveer Gill, 25, dressed in a trench-coat and sporting a mohawk, went on a shooting rampage on the campus of 10,000 students, killing one 18 year-old girl before taking his own life after being cornered by police.

Over the weekend his parents expressed their sympathies to the families of the victims and asked for forgiveness.

In an interview with La Presse newspaper they said Gill had been more solitary and sad since the holidays and had already been treated for depression. They said they were aware their son owned guns but added that they were all acquired legally and registered and were told they were used for his sporting enjoyment at a local gun club.

The parents claim however they were unaware of internet postings in which Gill called himself "Angel of death" and professed to wanting to "die in a hail of gunfire".

Gill also spent a brief period of four weeks trying out the Canadian armed forces, but eventually quit before he had even manipulated arms.

While psychologists said the return to class would be difficult for some students, others got a lift from the solemn procession which the students themselves organized as a show of unity.

"It's pretty overwhelming but it's also uplifting to see everyone coming together as a community, said Andrea Zwaagatra, 21.

Dawson director Richard Fillion said some 10 to 15 percent of students were still deeply affected by the tragedy.

"This is an exceptional moment in Dawson history," Fillion said of the school's reopening. "We will never forget what happened."

Health professionals, including nurses, social workers and psychiatrists, were on hand Monday to help students come to terms with the tragedy.

While Monday was marked by efforts to heal the wounds left by the shooting, fears of a copy-cat incident were raised as the provincial police arrested and seized the computer of a 15 year-old boy who allegedly praised Gill and threatened a similar attack on his school on the site, the same site where Gill had posted disturbing thoughts and photos of him brandishing various weapons.

Jayson Gauthier, of Quebec provincial police, said the boy, who cannot be identified under Canadian law because of his young age, appeared in court this morning and would spend the night in custody awaiting his bail hearing while authorities sifted through his computer.

"We are looking for files and any means of going through with what he was saying," Gauthier said.

A 23-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl accused in a triple murder in Medicine Hat, Alberta, earlier this year also had profiles on

Gauthier said police got a tip on the internet posting from the public.

"We will act swiftly to crack down on these individuals," he said, noting a number of people had posted comments supportive of Gill on the web site.

Seven injured students, all suffering from bullet wounds, remained at Montreal General Hospital, where four have been discharged since the shooting.

Meanwhile the Canadian Parliament opened a new session in Ottawa observing a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting.

Karzai visits Canada to shore up support for mission
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, September 21, 2006

OTTAWA - Afghan President Hamid Karzai came to Canada on Thursday to thank its people for their military sacrifice in Afghanistan and try to convince skeptics about the need to stay involved in his country as opposition to the mission mounts among the Canadian public.

Canada has lost 36 of its approximatively 2,300 troops in Afghanistan, including four during a recent suicide attack, leading to calls for military withdrawal from the left-wing New Democratic Party and other parliamentarians opposed to the country's most important combat operation since the Korean war.

Karzai is aware of the growing controversy over the mission and will argue that Canadian involvement is making his country better, said Omar Samad, Afghanistan's ambassador to Ottawa.

In recognition of Canada's military sacrifices in his country, Karzai will meet with the families of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in addition to meeting Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the first time since Harper visited Kabul in March.

Karzai will address parliament on Friday.

On Thursday Prime Minister Stephen Harper staunchly defended Canada's mission in Afghanistan during a speech at the United Nations in which he appealed for more help, stressing the future of the U.N. depended on success there.

"The success of this mission, in providing both security and development, is vital to the safety, livelihood and very future of the Afghan people but it is also vital to the health and future of this organization," Harper said.

"If we fail the Afghan people, we will be failing ourselves. For this is the United Nations strongest mission and, therefore, our greatest test. Our collective will and credibility are being judged. We cannot afford to fail. We will succeed."

Earlier this week Harper was steadfast Canada would stay in the country as long as it takes to achieve success, committing a new military contingent in the process. Some saw it as the strongest indication yet that Canada's troops may be there past its current 2009 commitment.

"The exit strategy is success. There will be no other conditions under which this government will leave Afghanistan," Harper said.

As the new Canadian parliamentary session opened, opposition leaders called for an emergency debate on foreign policy and New Democratic leader Jack Layton suggested the government is merely copying U.S. policy "on the fly" with regard to the mission in Afghanistan.

In recent polls Canadians have expressed a growing dissatisfaction with the mission. This week only 38 percent of respondents to an Ekos poll supported military participation in Afghanistan, down 24 points since December 2001.

Harper says the polls only reflects Canadian concern over mounting casualties and not opposition to the military mission and should not keep Canada from staying the course.

"Canada is in there, absolutely, for the right reasons," he stressed.

Karzai will go to Montreal on Saturday to participate in a round-table meeting with non-governmental organizations.

Karzai, who addressed the U.N. in New York on Wednesday, is scheduled to return to the U.S. to visit the White House on Sept. 26, one day before President George W. Bush and the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan meet to discuss regional security.
Karzai thanks Canada for sacrifices in his country
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, September 22, 2006

OTTAWA - Afghan President Hamid Karzai thanked Canada for its military sacrifice in Afghanistan in a speech to Parliament on Friday noting improvements in his country but hoping for an extended commitment to defend against the resurgence of terrorism.

Addressing a joint meeting of the houses of Parliament, Karzai recognized the Canadian casualties in his country but said they were helping Afghanistan rebuild.

"We admire your determination to help Afghanistan at times with the dearest sacrifice that mankind can offer, the life of your soldiers," Karzai said, specifically addressing the families of fallen soldiers. "Yes, It is sad but it is worth it."

Karzai was in Ottawa to shore up support for military assistance in his country at a time of renewed attacks by Taliban insurgents and slumping support for the war in Canada.

Canada has lost 36 of its approximatively 2,300 troops in Afghanistan, including four during a recent suicide attack, leading to calls by opposition politicians for military withdrawal.

Karzai said international help was effectively helping the country rebuild, but also warned of the dangers of forgetting Afghanistan, stressing that its abandonment in the past had helped al-Qaida set up its bases in the country and plan the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City and on the Pentagon.

Afghanistan is no longer isolated as Sept. 11 has shown, Karzai said during a press conference after the speech, making the need to confront militants more imperative.

"If we do not defeat them wherever they are, Afghanistan or any part of the world, they can choose to strike us at their timing, at the place of their choice," he said.

Karzai said Afghanistan had seen many improvements in the last five years, including the return of refugees, elections, a constitution and a gradual rebuilding of its institutions, but said a resurgence of militants fueled by the growth of the production of opium poppies required a long-term commitment.

"We want to have a country as good as yours and a parliament as good as yours but we will not have that unless we have destroyed poppies. I hope you will have the patience to bear with us for that long, perhaps 5 to 10 years," he appealed.

That would extend Canada's mission beyond 2011, the year Canada's current humanitarian commitment ends but two years after its current military commitment ends.

Harper said in a press conference following the speech that Canada would have to evaluate Afghanistan's needs in time and did not reject the possibility of an extended commitment.

"I don't anticipate that we will leave but I certainly anticipate our role to change particularly as we achieve one of our objectives which is to insure that the Afghans themselves, the Afghan forces, are increasingly able to take care of their own security, Harper said.

"Our men and women in uniform have shed their blood in a cause we all believe in," Harper said. "Canada does not leave other countries before our work is done.

Karzai pleaded against opposition arguments for a withdrawal of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

Karzai blamed the insurgency in Afghanistan on militants coming from across its borders, an indirect reference to Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan, after a week in which the leaders of both countries had been accusing each other of not doing enough to crack down on extremists.

"Unfortunately it was in those countries beyond our borders where (terrorists) were reorganized, trained, financed and provided with ideological motivation," he said.

Violence continued in Afghanistan on Friday when a bus of construction workers was ambushed by militants, killing 19 of them.

In recent polls Canadians have expressed a growing dissatisfaction with the mission but this week Harper said they only reflect Canadian concern over mounting casualties and not opposition to the military mission and should not keep Canada from staying the course.

Karzai will meet with the families of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Karzai, who addressed the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, is scheduled to return to the United States to visit the White House on Sept. 26, one day before U.S. President George W. Bush and the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan meet in three-way session to discuss regional security.
Chirac: Bin Laden Intel not confirmed
The Associated Press
Saturday, September 23, 2006

A leaked French intelligence document raises the possibility Osama bin Laden died of typhoid, but President Jacques Chirac said Saturday the report was "in no way whatsoever confirmed" and officials from Kabul to Washington expressed skepticism about its accuracy.

There have been numerous reports over the years that bin Laden had been killed or that he was dangerously ill, but the al-Qaida leader has periodically released audiotapes appealing to followers and commenting on current news events.

The regional French newspaper l'Est Republicain printed what it described as a copy of a confidential document from the DGSE intelligence service citing an uncorroborated report from a "usually reliable source" who said Saudi secret services were convinced that bin Laden had died.

The document, dated Thursday, was sent to Chirac and other top French officials, the newspaper said.

"This information is in no way whatsoever confirmed," Chirac said when asked about the document. "I have no comment."

Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry offered no details. "I've heard the reports, but I have no information at all. I have no idea," spokesman Mansour al-Turki told The Associated Press.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she had "no comment and no knowledge" about the report, while presidential spokesman Blair Jones said the White House could not confirm the report's accuracy. But two U.S. intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said U.S. agencies had no information to suggest bin Laden was dead or dying.

A senior official in Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry said he was very skeptical of the document, noting past false reports of the death of bin Laden. He declined to let his name be used because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tasnim Aslam, called the information "speculative," saying his government had no information on bin Laden.

Many people suspect bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders are hiding in the Pakistani mountains along the border with Afghanistan.

Among previous reports, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said during the U.S.-led offensive that toppled Afghanistan's Taliban regime in late 2001 that he was "reasonably sure" bin Laden had been killed by U.S. bombing raids on the Tora Bora caves.

Bin Laden also was rumored to have kidney problems, but a physician detained by Pakistan on suspicion he was treating top Taliban and al-Qaida militants told AP in December 2002 that the al-Qaida leader was in excellent health when the physician saw him a year earlier.

The Washington-based IntelCenter, which monitors terrorism communications, said it was not aware of reports on the Internet speculating about bin Laden and a life-threatening illness.

"We've seen nothing from any al-Qaida messaging or other indicators that would point to the death of Osama bin Laden," IntelCenter director Ben N. Venzke told AP.

Al-Qaida would likely release information of bin Laden's death fairly quickly if it were true, said Venzke, whose organization also provides counterterrorism intelligence services for the U.S. government.

"They would want to release that to sort of control the way that it unfolds. If they wait too long, they could lose the initiative on it," he said.

IntelCenter said the last time it could be sure bin Laden was alive was June 29, when al-Qaida released an audiotaped eulogy for al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by a U.S. air strike in Iraq earlier that month.

Chirac spoke at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Compiegne, France, where the leaders were meeting.

Putin suggested leaks can be ways to manipulate. "When there are leaks ... one can say that (they) were done especially," he said.

Chirac said he was "a bit surprised" at the leak and had asked Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie to investigate how the document was published.

The document from DGSE, or Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure, indicated the information came from a single source.

"The chief of al-Qaida was a victim of a severe typhoid crisis while in Pakistan on August 23, 2006," the document said. His geographic isolation meant medical assistance was impossible, the French report said, adding that his lower limbs were allegedly paralyzed.

According to the document, Saudi security services were pursuing further details, notably the place of bin Laden's burial.

When asked about the report during an appearance in Montreal, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that if proven true, it would be "good news" for the entire world.

Associated Press writers Katherine Shrader and Deb Riechmann in Washington, Anne Gearan in New York, Lauren Frayer in Cairo, Egypt, and Phil Couvrette in Montreal contributed to this story.

Karzai comments on reports of bin Laden's possible death
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, September 23, 2006

MONTREAL - If proven true, reports of Osama bin Laden's death are "good news" for the entire world, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Saturday.

"If it's true of course it's very important news for all of us. That would mean that the mastermind of al-Qaida, the head of al-Qaida, that brought so much misery to people all over the world would have been taken away," Karzai told reporters before an address to Montreal's international relations council.

"Let's just see if it's true or not," he said.

A leaked French intelligence document raised the possibility Saturday that Osama bin Laden may have died of typhoid in Pakistan last month, but the report has not been confirmed.

During his address Karzai paid homage to four Canadians soldiers recently killed in his country, saying that their sacrifice had to be honored by completing their mission.

"For that sacrifice we must make sure that the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, together with the rest of the world, succeeds," he said.

"We still have a journey to make to complete what we began after 2001," Karzai said.

Canada's international cooperation minister said C$12 million (US10.7 million; 7.5 million) in additional aid would be given to Afghanistan's national microcredit program, which provides loans and financial services to the country's poor.

Karzai also met with New Democratic party leader Jack Layton, who has been openly critical of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.

Layton said that while they disagreed on the need to pursue military operations they came to the conclusion that any long-term solution to the problems in Afghanistan would be political and not military, and should include Pakistan.

"We need to put pressure on the international community as well as on players, including Pakistan, to move into a new pattern toward a discussion for political solution," Layton said. "We believe this war-fighting mission in the south is no way to go."

Layton said Karzai was hopeful that upcoming trilateral meetings with Pakistan in Washington next week would produce results, and that a larger international forum should be considered if they fail.

Karzai, who addressed the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, is ending a three-day visit to Canada and is scheduled to return to the United States to meet with President George W. Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to discuss regional security.

In a speech to the Canadian parliament Friday, Karzai indirectly blamed Pakistan for letting the country's militant insurgency spill across the borders into Afghanistan. But while the two countries have accused each other of not doing enough to crack down on extremism, they maintain a good dialogue, according to Karzai's spokesman on international affairs.

As recently as a few weeks ago Pakistan and Afghanistan had productive "frank" discussions about the problem, Khaleeq Ahmad told The Associated Press.

"Terrorism will be on the agenda," he said of the Washington meeting.

"What we are saying is that we should not fight the results of terror, but the sources of terror," Ahmad said. "We have to cut it at the roots."

Outside the downtown hotel where Karzai was speaking, about 35 anti-war protesters demonstrated and at least one person was arrested.

Canadian overpass falls; deaths feared
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, September 30, 2006

LAVAL, Quebec - An overpass near Montreal collapsed Saturday, crushing two cars whose occupants were feared dead, authorities said. At least five people were injured.
Drivers on Highway 19 slammed on their brakes and watched in horror as the overpass slowly collapsed, sending cars plunging and crushing at least two vehicles. Quebec provincial police did not confirm any deaths but spokeswoman Chantal Mackels said police believed it was unlikely that anyone in the two crushed cars survived.

"We watched the overpass slowly come down and two cars fell from it," witness Golda Simon told TVA network.

Manon Joly had just dropped her daughter off at dance school and was in her car about to drive onto Highway 19.

"I slowed down and then all of a sudden everything collapsed like a house of cards," she said. "There were three or four cars that plunged into the hole right in front of me."

Ambulances transported five people. Three were in critical condition including two suffering from head injuries.

Emergency workers had not yet reached people trapped under the wreckage, said Andre Champagne of ambulance service Urgence-Sante. The workers were trying to secure the site before attending to those trapped, he told The Associated Press.

"We know minutes are precious," Champagne said. "It takes a long time. These are heavy structures that have to be moved."

Mackels said three lanes of the overpass plus a pedestrian sidewalk collapsed onto Highway 19. She said four vehicles - a motorcycle, two cars and a minivan - were on the overpass at the time

The incident occurred before 1 p.m. One witness told TVA he noticed that the road sunk an inch or two when he traveled over the overpass minutes earlier and he called emergency dispatchers.

Jean-Nicolas Turcotte, who lives near the overpass, was woken up by the collapse.

"I was sleeping when the large crash woke me up. At first I thought it was an earthquake or an accident. I looked out the window and heard people screaming," Turcotte said. "And I saw large puffs of smoke rising."

Claude Canton was painting his house just off the highway when he heard a loud bang. He said he saw two cars that were stuck under rubble and one started to catch fire before police put it out with extinguishers.

Aerial helicopter shots showed two passenger cars and a van on their backs or on the sides over the wreckage of the collapsed overpass, blocking traffic for miles. Authorities closed the bridge further down connecting Laval with the island on Montreal.

The incident was similar to the 2000 collapse of an overpass, also on the island of Laval north of Montreal, which killed one and injured two.

5 die in overpass collapse near Montreal
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Sunday, October 1, 2006

LAVAL, Quebec - Quebec provincial police said Sunday that at least five people were crushed to death in their cars after the collapse of an overpass near Montreal.

The cars were pulled out about 15 hours after Saturday's dramatic lunchtime accident when a 65-foot stretch of three lanes of a viaduct collapsed, sending several other vehicles crashing onto Highway 19 below.

Firefighters and other workers had to use cranes and other heavy machinery to painstakingly break up the concrete into as many as 18 huge slabs, including a pedestrian sidewalk.

Three people were found in one car and two other bodies were recovered from the other car trapped by the falling concrete in Laval, police spokeswoman Isabelle Gendron said.

The vehicles were crushed so badly in the Saturday afternoon collapse that they barely reached the knees of one firefighter when lifted from under tons of concrete rubble Sunday.

"At this point the rescue operation is completed," Gendron said, noting that no other vehicles were trapped beneath the concrete.

Drivers on Highway 19 in the Greater Montreal Area slammed on their brakes and watched in horror as the overpass slowly collapsed shortly before 1 p.m.

Police said six people were injured, including two who were listed in critical condition, when a minivan and a motorcycle plunged off the overpass.

Doctors at Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal said some of those injured had improved overnight but gave no further details.

One of the injured was counting his blessings the day after the collapse. Robert Hotte was driving over the viaduct when the road in front of him began to disappear.

"I was wondering what the ... what is happening," he told The Canadian Press. "As we went down with the bridge, my first words were to say `Anne-Marie,' the name of my girlfriend. We went down, falling with the bridge. It was all dark."

The vehicle crashed into the debris below, landing on the passenger side window. They crawled out a window, waiting for a few minutes in a police car for an ambulance to arrive and take them to hospital.

Hotte suffered some minor injuries and was released after X-rays. His girlfriend remained in the hospital in stable condition on Sunday, but she had some internal bleeding, Hotte said.

One witness told TVA television network that he noticed that the road sunk an inch or two when he traveled over the overpass minutes earlier, so he called emergency dispatchers.

Transport Quebec spokeswoman Josee Seguin said the overpass was built in 1970, while Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt said it had passed an inspection test last year.

Seguin said the department heard about an hour before the accident that some pieces of concrete were falling off the overpass. She added that Transport Quebec then issued an advisory to traffic reporters to mention the debris.

A Transport Quebec inspector was sent to the site about 30 minutes before the tragedy but the overpass remained open.

"It is a viaduct that had never, until now, shown any signs of weakness," Vaillancourt said. "It wasn't on the list of viaducts and bridges that needed to be repaired or replaced."

It was the second serious overpass collapse in Laval in the last six years.

In 2000, a man died when a section of overpass that had been under construction for six months collapsed and eight 70-ton beams fell on the car he was riding in.

A coroner's report later concluded a construction company didn't properly secure the concrete beams, and accused the province's construction industry of shoddy work and questionable corporate practices.

Quebec to probe deadly overpass collapse
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Sun Oct 1, 8:42 PM ET

LAVAL, Quebec - Quebec's government said Sunday it would launch a public inquiry to determine why an overpass collapsed north of Montreal, crushing five people to death.
Visiting the accident site Sunday, Quebec Premier Jean Charest gave his condolences to the families of the victims and said an inquiry by a former provincial leader would seek to shed light on the disaster.

"We don't know how this happened," Charest said. "The initial info we have leads us not to be able to understand how the bridge fell. We're going to want to find out how this happened and why this happened."

There appeared to have been some advance warning signs of trouble with the overpass in Laval before Saturday's collapse, which also injured six people. One witness told TVA television network that he noticed the road had sunk an inch or two when he drove on the overpass minutes before the collapse and he called emergency dispatchers.

Transport Quebec, the province's transportation ministry, also heard about an hour before the accident that some pieces of concrete were falling off the overpass, said spokeswoman Josee Seguin.

She said Transport Quebec then issued an advisory to traffic reporters on the debris and an inspector from the agency was sent to the site, but it remained open.

Not long after that, a 65-foot stretch of the viaduct collapsed, sending several vehicles crashing onto Highway 19 below.

"It is a viaduct that had never, until now, shown any signs of weakness," said Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt. "It wasn't on the list of viaducts and bridges that needed to be repaired or replaced."

Seguin said the overpass was built in 1970. Vaillancourt said it had passed an inspection test last year.

The crushed cars were pulled out about 15 hours after Saturday's lunchtime accident. Firefighters and other workers had to use cranes and other heavy machinery to break up the concrete into as many as 18 huge slabs to remove it.

Vehicles were crushed so badly they barely reached the knees of one firefighter when lifted from under tons of concrete rubble Sunday.

Three people were found in one car and two bodies were recovered from another, police spokeswoman Isabelle Gendron said. Police said six people were injured, including two who were listed in critical condition, when a minivan and a motorcycle plunged off the overpass.

Robert Hotte, one of the injured, was driving over the viaduct when the road in front of him began to disappear.

"I was wondering ... what is happening," he said. "As we went down with the bridge, my first words were to say 'Anne-Marie,' the name of my girlfriend. We went down, falling with the bridge. It was all dark."

The vehicle crashed into the debris below, landing on its passenger-side window. He and his girlfriend crawled out a window and were taken to the hospital.

Hotte suffered minor injuries and was released. His girlfriend remained in the hospital in stable condition on Sunday with some internal bleeding, he said.

It was the second serious overpass collapse in Laval in the last six years.

In 2000, a man died when a section of overpass that had been under construction for six months collapsed and eight 70-ton beams fell on the car he was riding in.

A coroner's report later concluded a construction company didn't properly secure the concrete beams, and accused the province's construction industry of shoddy work and questionable corporate practices.

Students barricaded in Montreal school
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday Oct. 4, 2006
MONTREAL Students were brought inside and barricaded in the school gym after some of them said they saw an armed man in a nearby park, but the incident was a false alarm, Montreal police and school board officials said.
Police rushed to Les-Enfants-Du-Monde primary school after receiving the call at midday and established a perimeter but determined that there was no threat to the West-end public school of some 400 students from 5 to 12 years old.
"The operation near a school, with a man who was possibly armed, is over," police spokeswoman Anie Lemieux said shortly after 2 p.m. (1800 GMT). "No suspect was found."
The incident occurred three weeks to the day after an armed man entered Montreal's Dawson College, killing one woman and injuring 19 people before taking his own life.
It also follows a series of U.S. school shootings. A gunman killed himself and five girls Monday at a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania; on Friday a 15-year-old Wisconsin student shot and killed his principal; and last Wednesday a man took six girls hostage in Colorado, sexually assaulting them before fatally shooting one girl and killing himself.
"The children were never in danger or in contact with the individual," said Sylvain Arsenault of the Montreal school board. "We called the parents to tell them to pick up their children; we didn't want them to take any chances on the way home."
Arsenault said police quickly arrived on the scene, while the school board's trauma team was also called in just to be safe.
"We have to be prudent without bordering on paranoia," he said, referring to other recent school incidents.
Police across Quebec investigated over half a dozen threats against Quebec schools in the days following the shooting at Dawson College.
Microcreditors gear up for massive gathering
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Thursday Nov. 9, 2006
Organizers of the upcoming Microcredit Summit, whose members are seeking to assist the world's poorest people by providing small loans, said Thursday that their efforts could lift more than half a billion people out of extreme poverty in less than a decade.

Speaking in Ottawa ahead of a four-day summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which gets under way Sunday, Microcredit Campaign Summit director Sam Daley-Harris said the ambitious goals of the conference would require "renewed efforts and new players."

The Summit has already drawn Bangladeshi economist Dr. Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 13; Queen Sofia of Spain; the prime minister of Pakistan and other heads of states, as well as large philanthropic groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Organizers will launch a new goal to help 175 million families get small loans by the end of 2015, which they believe could impact some 875 million people.

The microcredit scheme of offering small loans to poor people who have no collateral was launched by Yunus in Bangladesh some 30 years ago, when he founded the Grameen Bank. It gave out loans, mostly $200 (€156) and mostly to women, to buy a cow or cellular phone. Those women went on to sell the milk or telephone calls, feed their families and send their kids to school.

Now there are some 3,100 institutions worldwide giving microcredit loans.

Daley-Harris said the Nobel Prize has helped the program gain much-needed attention.

The Campaign's progress from 1997-2005 went by largely unnoticed," Daley-Harris told a news conference in Ottawa. "Now, with the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize, we are asking the world to not only take notice, but also take action."

The Microcredit Summit Campaign, launched in 1997, is determined to help 175 million people living on less than $1 a day get small loans by the end of 2015, despite previously falling short of reaching its initial goal 100 million people by the end of 2005.

The campaign still provided loans to about 82 million people.

An estimated 1 billion of the planet's people still live on less than a dollar a day; another 3 billion are believed to subsist on $2 a day, or half the world's population.

Yunus will open the summit Sunday by addressing some 2,000 delegates from more than 100 countries to review their efforts and launch the next round of goals for the campaign.

Micro-bankers, some with as many as 6 million loans out this year, will deliberate with global commercial bankers from Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, ING Bank, Scotia Bank and many others.


On the Net:

Microcredit Campaign Summit:

Microcredits part of mainstream, Nobel Prize winner says
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Sunday Nov. 12, 2006

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) - Critics of microcredit have been proven wrong, as the revolutionary banking system goes mainstream and continues to lift millions of people out of poverty, Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus told the opening of global conference Sunday.

Yunus and his Grameen Bank, which he founded in his native South Asian country more than three decades ago, shared the Nobel Peace Prize a month ago.

"We were not taken very seriously, we were ridiculed, but today we can celebrate," Yunus told a jubilant crowd in his first North American address since winning the award on Oct. 13.

Members of the Washington-based Microcredit Summit Campaign have gathered to discuss their new goal of reaching 175 million people living on less than $1 with small loans by 2015.

Though it fell short of its previous goal of 100 million people by the end of 2005 - reaching 82 million people instead - its proponents believe the Nobel will further their cause.

The four-day summit, which runs through Wednesday, brings together 2,000 delegates from more than 100 countries, including Queen Sofia of Spain, the president of Honduras and the prime ministers of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


Suspected Spy due in Canadian Court
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, November 16, 2006 · 7:37 p.m. PT

Canada will try to deport an alleged spy, authorities said Thursday, after he was arrested in Montreal this week and called a potential threat to national security.

The man was taken into custody by the Canada Border Services Agency on Tuesday, said Melisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.

A copy of the security certificate, obtained by The Associated Press, said a man alleging to be Paul William Hampel, "a foreign national," had been detained, but it gave no details about his nationality or the accusations against him.

CTV reported that the suspect is possibly from Russia, posing as a Canadian citizen, but federal officials would not confirm that.

Under Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the man is suspected of "engaging in an act of espionage or an act of subversion against a democratic government, institution or process as they are understood in Canada," the certificate said.

The Federal Court of Canada said the man would appear in a Montreal courtroom Wednesday to review the allegations against him.

It is the first time in a decade that a security certificate has been filed in an espionage case. In 1996, two Russian spies were deported from Canada.

Leclerc said more information would become available as the legal process unfolds in Federal Court. "There's not much I can say, because it's before the court," she told The Canadian Press.

Barbara Campion of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, told the AP that the security certificate - which allows authorities to detain suspects who pose a threat to national security without formal charge or trial - was released by the Federal Court on Wednesday.

She said she could not comment further, but added that the man was "believed to be a spy."

Under federal immigration law, the government may use a certificate to deport a non-citizen suspected of being a risk to Canadian security.

Critics, however, argue the certificate system is unconstitutional because the person named does not have full access to the evidence against him. The Supreme Court of Canada is about to rule on a challenge to the certificate regime and whether it's constitutional.

The certificates have become a flashpoint in Canada's fight against terrorism, drawing criticism from human rights activists and lawyers. Five Arab Muslim men have been detained under the certificates since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

The certificates have now been used in 28 cases, almost all involving terrorism or espionage, since 1991.

Dmitriy Olshevsky and Yelena Olshevskaya, who went by the bogus names Ian and Laurie Lambert, made headlines in 1996 when they were arrested and promptly removed from Canada.

Friends and co-workers were stunned to learn the pair were actually "sleeper" agents for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, the successor to the KGB.

Two Russian diplomats kicked out of Canada in 2002 were military attaches at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa, suspected by many of being involved in espionage.

LeMond Urges criminal sanctions against dopers
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Mon Nov 20, 8:10 PM

MONTREAL (AP) - Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond wants athletes who cheat by using banned drugs to face criminal charges for defrauding the public and their sponsors.

LeMond also told the World Anti-Doping Agency that athletes who confess or come forward with information that could undo doping networks should receive more lenient punishment, balancing the benefit of people coming clean with the need to penalize cheaters.

"I believe in severe penalties, possibly even life bans. But you can't penalize everybody, or no one will come forward," said LeMond, adding that athletes who co-operate should get a second chance, but under a probationary period of intense scrutiny.

The American cyclist made the remarks Monday as a guest of WADA's Foundation board, at a time when the doping agency is considering tougher sanctions for athletes found guilty of doping.

As WADA reviews its global anti-doping code, which sets out common rules and sanctions for all sports, the International Association of Athletics Federations has proposed doubling the standard penalty for a doping violation from a two-year to four-year suspension.

Athletes want strong sanctions, WADA executive committee and athlete committee member Rania Elwani reminded the board.

"Athletes are responsible to make sure they get nothing wrong in their system," she said.

LeMond said doping was one of the reasons he left the sport "with a bad taste in my mouth." At the time, he assumed his declining rankings were a result of his failure to compete or train sufficiently. Now, he believes the development of drug programs - EPO in particular - were responsible.

"EPO was used to transform decent athletes into super-athletes," he said.

In other business Monday, WADA unanimously elected Jean-Francois Lamour as its new vice-president, one year before Dick Pound is expected to step down as the leader of the agency. Lamour, nominated by European ministers last month, was the only candidate and is in a leading position to replace Pound.

"One of my priorities is to look at our ability to reinforce the battle against the trafficking of doping products," Lamour said.

The board also approved a US$23 million budget for 2007, an increase of three per cent over this year.
Canada says it's arrested Russian Spy
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Nov. 21, 2006, 4:24PM

MONTREAL - A man arrested on espionage charges is an elite Russian spy who had been collecting intelligence on Canada for more than a decade, Canadian authorities said in court documents released Tuesday.

The man identified as Paul William Hampel was taken into custody by the Canada Border Services agency on Nov. 14 and accused of being a foreign spy deemed threatening to Canadian security.

Revealing details in documents filed in Federal Court in Montreal, Canadian Security Intelligence Service officials said they believed Hampel is a member of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, a successor to the KGB.

The officials said Hampel used a fraudulent birth certificate to obtain at least three Canadian passports and recommended that he immediately be deported. He was to appear in court on Wednesday.

Hampel's attorney, Stephane Handfield, said his client would seek a delay in the deportation proceedings because he only received the summary of the evidence against him on Tuesday.

Handfield also complained that Hampel had problems contacting his lawyers last week. He said he met with Hampel on Sunday, but would not say where he is being detained.

"I didn't talk to him last week because it was impossible for him to communicate with his lawyers," he told The Canadian Press.

The documents detailed items allegedly found by authorities on Hampel after he was detained at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport, including a fraudulent Ontario birth certificate in a travel pouch under his shirt, $6,810 in five currencies, three cell phones, two digital cameras and a short wave radio.

"Hampel's establishment of a legend based on Canadian documentation has provided him with the ability to covertly further the interests of the SVR for over a decade both within Canada and abroad," the federal summary reads, accusing him of being "an elite intelligence officer."

The documents were filed on behalf of CSIS, Canada's intelligence arm.

Calls to the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and the SVR in Moscow were not immediately returned.

Dmitriy Olshevsky and Yelena Olshevskaya, who went by the bogus names Ian and Laurie Lambert, made headlines in 1996 when they were arrested and promptly removed from Canada. Friends and co-workers were stunned to learn the pair were actually "sleeper" agents for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

90 alleged organized crime figures arrested in Montreal
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Wed. Nov. 22, 2006
MONTREAL: Police arrested some 90 suspected mobsters early Wednesday, including the father of a man who allegedly killed members of the Bonanno crime family in New York, dealing what they described as a major blow to organized crime.

Dubbed Project Coliseum, in a reference to the ancient Roman landmark, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said 700 police officers in Montreal conducted early morning raids to round up suspects, calling it "one of the most important police operations in the history of Canada."

The national police force said more than 1,300 charges were expected to be brought against the suspects, including attempted murder, drug dealing, gangsterism, extortion, bookmaking and possession of restricted weapons.

"We believe we've pierced Italian organized crime," Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Luc Bessette said, adding that the project began two years ago.

"When we talk about organized crime, we do so knowing that many in this country don't believe it impacts their daily lives or is even present in their communities," RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said. "By sowing the seeds of greed, corruption and violence, organized crime directly harms individuals, communities and society at large."

The RCMP, Montreal police and Quebec provincial police took part in the raids.

Among those arrested was 82-year-old Nicolo Rizzuto, the father of Vito Rizzuto, who was deported to the United States earlier this year to face charges related to the murder of three members of the reputed Bonanno crime family in New York.

Also arrested were Francesco Arcadi, Francesco Del Balso, Paolo Renda, Rocco Sollecito and other associates.

The RCMP alleges the men are part of an organized crime family whose primary activity was to import and export drugs, operate an online bookmaking business, extortion and murder.

"This major international investigation ... highlighted the group's criminal activity and revealed the many tentacles of traditional Italian-based organized crime," the RCMP said in a statement.

The RCMP investigators said the group had infiltrated Montreal's international airport and that a customs officer and a dozen current and former employees were involved in a scheme to import 1,300 kilograms (2,866 pounds) of cocaine by container. The police said the first 300 kilograms (660 pounds) in the first shipment was seized.

The RCMP said assets of some of those charged were seized, including houses and bank accounts. More than C$3.1 million (US $2.7 million; €2.1 million) and US $255,200 (€198,045) were seized in the course of the investigation.

Canada claims man arrested works for Russian intelligence
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Wed. Nov. 22, 2006
MONTREAL: The case of a man accused of being an elite Russian spy gathering intelligence in Canada for more than a decade was put off until next week after a judge agreed Wednesday that the accused had not had enough time to consult with his lawyers.

The suspect was taken into custody by the Canada Border Services Agency on Nov. 14 after authorities said a man identified as Paul William Hampel was in fact a foreign national suspected of engaging in acts of espionage that threatened Canadian security.

In documents filed in Federal Court in Montreal on Tuesday, CSIS officials said they believe Hampel is a member of the Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, a successor to the KGB.

Hampel appeared in court Wednesday morning, but the federal judge put the hearing off until next Tuesday so that he would have more time to consult with lawyers.

A spokeswoman for the SVR in Moscow declined to comment on the case and calls to the media liaison at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa were not returned.

Hampel is believed to have collected intelligence on Canada for more than a decade, authorities said in the documents filed on Tuesday. They claim he used a fraudulent birth certificate to obtain three Canadian passports and recommended that he be deported.

"Hampel's establishment of a legend based on Canadian documentation has provided him with the ability to covertly further the interests of the SVR for over a decade both within Canada and abroad," the federal summary reads.

The documents said when Hampel was detained and searched by authorities at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport on Nov. 14, they found his fraudulent Ontario birth certificate in a travel pouch under his shirt; C$7,800 (US$6,810; €5,300) in five currencies; three cellular phones; five sim cards (several of which were password protected); two digital cameras and a short wave radio.

Details of his three Canadian passport applications in 1995, 2000 and 2002 were included in the documents. Though most of the contents were blacked out, the first two applications claimed that Hampel was a lifeguard and travel consultant.

"An SVR illegal is an elite Russian intelligence officer," said the documents filed on behalf of CSIS, Canada's intelligence arm. "Illegals are secretly deployed abroad, operate covertly under assumed names and life stories and masquerade as citizens of target countries."

The last time Russian spies were captured and booted from Canada was in 1996, when Dmitriy Olshevsky and Yelena Olshevskaya, who went by the bogus names Ian and Laurie Lambert. Friends and colleagues were stunned to learn the pair were actually "sleeper" agents for the SVR.

Police continue to arrest Montreal crime figures
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Thur. Nov. 23, 2006

MONTREAL: Canadian police were rounding up suspects for a second day in what they called one of the most important police operations in the country's history which involved 90 members of organized crime, four of them living in the U.S., authorities said Thursday.

Since early Wednesday morning Project Coliseum has been sending some 700 police officers conducting raids in Quebec and two other provinces, looking to arrest 90 suspected mobsters, including the father of a man who allegedly killed members of the Bonanno crime family in New York, dealing what they described as a major blow to organized crime.

Police said some 56 of the suspects had already appeared in court while the names of twelve others still on the loose were posted on the web site of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Mounties said more than 1,300 charges were expected to be brought against the suspects, including attempted murder, drug dealing, gangsterism, extortion, bookmaking and possession of restricted weapons.

Among the figureheads arrested was 82-year-old Nicolo Rizzuto, the father of Vito Rizzuto, who was deported to the United States earlier this year to face charges related to the murder of three members of the reputed Bonanno crime family in New York.

Also arrested were Francesco Arcadi, Francesco Del Balso, Paolo Renda, Rocco Sollecito and other associates.

The RCMP alleges the men are part of an organized crime family whose primary activity was to import and export drugs, operate an online bookmaking business, extortion and murder.

Police said it disrupted the import of cocaine from the Caribbean and South America as well as a cannabis route from Canada into the U.S. using a Native reserve as a transit location so that the drugs could be moved to Florida.

Twenty-four individuals were answering charges related to that scheme involving the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve straddling the U.S.-Canada border.

Charges faced by the suspects include attempts to import drugs from countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, one shipment of 300kg (660 pounds) of cocaine having been seized in a container first loaded onto a truck in Newark, New Jersey.

"In most large-scale investigations here in Canada, especially those targeting organized crime, we're always working with the various agencies in the U.S. whether it's Homeland Security, the FBI or DEA, we're always working in partnership," said RCMP inspector Michel Aubin.

"The investigation has shown they had external contacts," Aubin said of the suspects. "These contacts are under investigation."

Aubin said most of the 90 suspects are Canadian but noted "there are four individuals that live in the states for which arrest warrants have been issued here in Canada."

RCMP investigators said some suspects had infiltrated Montreal's international airport and that a customs officer and a dozen current and former employees were involved in a scheme to import 1,300 kilograms (2,866 pounds) of cocaine by container.

More than $2.7 million in assets were also frozen and $255,200 in U.S. currency were seized in the course of the investigation.

Man accused of being Russian spy faces deportation
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Dec 04 2006, 20:55

MONTREAL (AP) - A lawyer representing a man accused of being a Russian spy told a judge Monday that his client had acknowledged using a false Canadian passport, was in fact a Russian citizen and would no longer fight deportation.

The federal judge accepted the surprise confession and said the man who called himself Paul William Hampel would now be deported. Judge Pierre Blais, however, declined to reveal the true identity of the man, saying it could harm his family or health.

Only last week, Hampel's lawyer, Stephane Handfield, insisted Hampel was a Canadian citizen, was innocent of any allegations against him and would fight to remain in Canada. The Russian ambassador also denied that Hampel was a spy, saying that type of Cold War espionage was over.

But Handfield told reporters outside the courtroom that the man called Hampel realized he had no witnesses or proof of Canadian citizenship, so he decided to give up his effort to fight deportation.

"After discussions with our client these last few days, he decided to admit that he wasn't Paul William Hampel," Handfield said, adding that the man also acknowledged he was in Canada illegally, was Russian, and "wanted to return to his country of citizenship."

Handfield would not answer questions about Hampel's alleged intelligence activities, and said his client expected to be deported quickly.

"He fears for his safety and that of his family everywhere," Handfield said, declining to give Hampel's true name or discuss whether he was engaged in espionage.

The Canada Border Services Agency took Hampel into custody on Nov. 14 after finding he was carrying a fraudulent Ontario birth certificate under his shirt.

According to documents filed in Federal Court in Montreal, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service believes Hampel is a member of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB. Officials had asked for his immediate deportation, suspecting him of acts of espionage that threatened Canadian security.

When Hampel was detained and searched at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport, he had $6,810 in five currencies; three cellular phones; five sim cards for cellular phones (several of them password protected); two digital cameras and a shortwave radio, according to CSIS documents.

An official with the Office of the Registrar General of Ontario told a hearing last week that there was no birth or death certificate for a Paul William Hampel and that the registration number Hampel used on his birth certificate had been assigned to another person who is alive.

Hampel's three Canadian passport applications in 1995, 2000 and 2002 showed he had claimed to be a lifeguard and a travel consultant. A self-published book of landscape photography called "My Beautiful Balkans" showed he had traveled widely in the region.

On his Web site promoting the book, Hampel calls himself an emerging markets analyst. The Web site shows new photo postings on Nov. 11 from Serbia and Macedonia.

Cases involving alleged Russian spies are rare in Canada. The last case was in 1996, when Dmitriy Olshevsky and Yelena Olshevskaya, who went under the names of Ian and Laurie Lambert, were arrested and promptly deported. Friends and co-workers were stunned to learn the pair were actually "sleeper" agents for the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.

Gainey family thanks rescuers
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
12.12.06, 7:37 PM ET
MONTREAL - The family of Canadian hockey great Bob Gainey on Tuesday
thanked supportive fans and all those who helped search for
his daughter, who has been missing since a huge wave swept
her overboard a ship in the Atlantic.

Laura Gainey was on the deck of the 180-foot tall ship
Picton Castle on Friday night when the wave hit the ship.
She was wearing protective clothing but no lifejacket at the
time. The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for Gainey,
25, on Monday night.

In their first comments since the incident 475 miles off
Cape Cod, the Montreal Canadiens general manager and his
three other children thanked "all the people who have been
involved in the search for our darling Laura."

"Their extensive efforts and their tremendous support
throughout this ordeal will never be forgotten," the family
said in a statement released by the Montreal Canadiens. "We
would particularly like to thank the United States Coast
Guard and the Canadian Forces' Joint Rescue Coordination
Center in Halifax for their extraordinary efforts.

"We are also very grateful to the entire crew of the Picton
Castle and the merchant ships that graciously volunteered
their time and resources."

Less than two weeks ago, the tall ship set sail from
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, for a six-month tour that would take
it to the Caribbean. Gainey was a member of the crew, with
responsibility for certain watches and instruction of
volunteer trainees.

U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard aircraft had scoured the ocean
for Gainey using infrared night-vision technology to
continue searches at night.

While the water temperature was found to be a relatively
warm 68 degrees in that part of the mid-Atlantic, and Gainey
was a strong swimmer, the Coast Guard called off the search
Monday evening as it was unlikely she could have survived 70
hours in the water.

On Tuesday, the Picton Castle, which had also been actively
searching along with two merchant ships, also announced it
was ending its search.

"The time has now come to end the search and allow our crew
to carry on with the voyage southward towards calmer, safer
waters," captain Daniel Moreland said. "They are tired,
grief-stricken for their shipmate and heartsick for the
Gainey family."

Gainey has taken a leave of absence from the team. A moment
of silence will be held when the Canadiens face Boston in
Montreal on Tuesday night.

A member of the hockey Hall of Fame, Gainey won five Stanley
Cups with Montreal during a 16-year career as a forward from
1973-89. He also won a championship as general manager of
the Dallas Stars in 1999. His wife, Cathy, died of brain
cancer in 1995 at 39.

UN aviation agency reports world traffic up 5 percent
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
December 21, 2006
MONTREAL: World airline traffic grew by about 5 percent in 2006, with the Middle East and Asia leading the way while North America, Europe and Latin America were below the world average, the U.N. civil aviation agency reported Thursday.

Preliminary traffic figures by the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) reported that the total number of passengers grew by about 4 percent to 2.1 billion this year, while traffic in terms of passenger miles increased by about 5 percent.

The figures mark a continuation of traffic growth after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and a slowing world economy hurt airline traffic in 2001 and 2002.

The Middle East was expected to keep leading the pack due to strong regional economies and sustained growth, while the Asia-Pacific region saw domestic routes showing strong growth in both capacity and traffic figures.

North American airlines, meanwhile, have had to adjust their strategies on international routes, focusing on longer routes, while dealing with stiff competition domestically "to respond to low-cost competition."

 "Growth for airlines in North America, Europe and Latin America were below the world average, mainly due to a more measured deployment of capacity, some route rationalization and changes in the route mix introduced by carriers of the North American and European regions," the ICAO said in a news release.

The average passenger load was up to almost 76 percent from around 75 percent last year on both international and domestic routes.

Freight traffic was also up 3 percent over last year, with freight tons carried on scheduled services worldwide growing to around 39 million tons (35.5 million metric tons).
Jailed Olympic gold medallist Bedard arrives in Canada
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
January 4, 2007
MONTREAL: After spending Christmas and New Year's in jail, Olympic gold medalist Myriam Bedard boarded a plane in the United States on Thursday and arrived in Canada, where she will face parental child abduction charges.

Bedard flew home to Quebec City, Quebec on a Royal Canadian Mounted Police jet in police custody and will spend the night at a detention center before her bail hearing Friday.

Bedard's American attorney, Kevin McCants, said Bedard's attorneys expected her to be released from custody Friday on the condition that she not leave Canada.

Bedard was arrested Dec. 22 and is being held on a warrant as an international fugitive for allegedly violating a child custody order by bringing her 12-year-old daughter to the United States. U.S. marshals found her and the girl, Maude, at a hotel in a suburb between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

A judge in Canada signed an order on the day of Bedard's arrest that granted sole custody of her daughter to her ex-husband, Jean Paquet, McCants said he learned Thursday. He said Bedard was not aware of the order.

"We're working on getting it thrown out," McCants said.

The 37-year-old Bedard won two gold medals in the biathlon competition at the 199Lillehammer Olympics in Norway.

An attorney from her Canadian lawyer's office read Bedard her rights in a phone conversation with the plane. Isabelle Charles says she informed Bedard, who was hoping to be freed right away, that she would have to remain in jail one more night.

"There was a bit of disappointment but she knows she doesn't have a choice," Charles said.

McCants said Bedard had come to the U.S. with her daughter and common-law husband, Nima Mazhari, to talk to U.S. officials about a scandal involving a Canadian government sponsorship program in Quebec between 1996 and 2004. Bedard testified in 2004 in Canada that she had been forced to quit a job at Via Rail in 2002 after raising concerns about the company's dealings with an advertiser.

"This is just a punishment because of what happened with the political scandal. That's what she told me," McCants said.

She faces up to 10 years in prison for child abduction. Paquet alleged she had taken their daughter from Quebec City without his permission.

Mazhari has had his own legal problems. He was charged in 2005 with theft and possession of about 20 stolen paintings worth $100,000 (€76,300).


AP Writer Ben Nuckols contributed to this story from Baltimore.

Olympian Bedard out on bail
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
January 5, 2007, 3:06 PM CST

MONTREAL - Former Olympic biathlon champion Myriam Bedard was given bail Friday on a charge of breaching a custodial order involving her 12-year-old daughter.

Bedard's appearance in a Quebec City courtroom came a day after she returned home following nearly two weeks in jail in the United States.
She was given bail with conditions that include supervised visits with her daughter, remaining in Quebec and surrendering her passport and appearing once a week at a designated Montreal police station.

"I'm very happy to be out, I can't wait to see my daughter," the two-time gold-medalist told a crush of reporters waiting outside the courthouse.

Her attorney John Pepper Jr. considered the ruling "most reasonable" ahead of a jury trial that will begin with a preliminary hearing on April 2.

Bedard's lawyers contend she did not breach a custody agreement when she took her daughter to the United States on Oct. 3. Bedard, who was denied bail by a U.S. judge shortly after her arrest in Maryland, waived her right to an extradition hearing.

The two countries agreed last Friday for her return to Quebec to face the criminal charges.

The 37-year-old Bedard won two gold medals in the biathlon competition at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

She faces up to 10 years in prison for child abduction. Her ex-husband alleged she had taken their daughter from Quebec City without his permission.

Canadian authorities investigating terror threat
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
January 19, 2007

MONTREAL: Canadian authorities said Friday they were investigating terrorist threats against Montreal's anglophone community by a group claiming links to militant Quebec separatists who kidnapped and murdered a Quebec minister in the 1970s.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said it was investigating the source of a statement signed by a group which claimed to be a cell of the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ) and threatened to attack public buildings in the city's largely English-speaking west end.

"Is it a hoax, is it someone who wants to pass as an FLQ cell? This remains to be determined, but we are taking this very seriously," said Luc Bessette of the RCMP. "Our entire national security team is working on this and the investigation will be handled as quickly as possible."

In 1970, the shadowy militant FLQ demanded "total independence" from Canada. Its members kidnapped and killed Quebec's labor minister and later abducted, then freed, a British diplomat.

The subsequent "October Crisis" was considered one of the darkest periods in modern Canadian history. Canadian troops patrolled the streets of Quebec and jailed alleged FLQ sympathizers, most of whom were later found innocent of having any FLQ ties.

Since then, the separatist Parti Quebecois has gained seats in the provincial assembly, but twice failed to win referendums calling for independence of the French-speaking province. The political party has never advocated violence in its struggle for sovereignty.

In the statement dated Jan. 15, the purported cell of the militant group warns that attacks would target anglophone municipalities with the intention of causing "maximum impact" between Feb. 15 and March 15, using booby-trapped parcels and remote-control devices.

"It's possible there will be injuries and deaths," warns the document obtained by The Associated Press.

Municipalities in Quebec that renounce their bilingual status before Feb. 15 and promote the French language would be spared, the document contends. Immigrants who don't learn French and businesses that don't conform to Quebec laws that call for the prominent display of French on their business signs were also threatened.

The group said it would target shopping malls, bridges, rail lines, airport facilities, water supplies, municipal buildings and service stations.

Copies of the statement were sent to the mayor of the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield, as well as Quebec Premier Jean Charest and French President Jacques Chirac.

The same group issued a first warning of attack last November, referring to the same date.

On Feb. 15, 1839, five members of the French-Canadian Patriotes, who were rebels against British colonial authority, were hanged.

The author claimed French-speaking Quebecois were "systematically ridiculed by a local anglophone majority who scorn the French language and the rights of francophones" and subject them to "Anglo-Saxon imperialism."

The November statement launched an investigation by the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, which includes Montreal and provincial police, the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

While the Quebec separatist movement has not displayed the militancy of the 1970s in recent years, polls indicate the movement is far from dead, with support for Quebec's independence hovering between 40 to 45 percent.

A motion passed by the House of Commons in Parliament last fall stated that the people of Quebec form a nation within a united Canada, in an attempt to address the identity debate.

World's oldest woman dies
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
January 19, 2007

MONTREAL: Julie Winnifred Bertrand, believed to be the world's oldest woman at 115, died in her sleep at the Montreal nursing home where she had lived for the last 35 years, an official at the home said Friday.

Bertrand, born Sept. 16, 1891, in the Quebec town of Coaticook, passed away early Thursday morning, according to Nicole Ouellet. Her nephew Andre Bertrand told The Gazette in Montreal that she died peacefully in her sleep.

"She just stopped breathing," said Bertrand, 73. "That's a nice way to go."

Bertrand became the world's oldest woman last month, after the death of Elizabeth Bolden, a Tennessee woman born on Aug. 15, 1890, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The designation set off a publicity storm of sorts. Bertrand's niece, Elaine Sauciere, said the fame her aunt acquired late in life was really quite "unbelievable."

"This little woman sold clothes at a department store in Coaticook," said Sauciere, 70.

A British film crew had just requested an interview with Bertrand for a documentary on people who live long lives. The work also features Emiliano Mercado del Toro of Puerto Rico, the world's oldest person, who was 26 days older than Bertrand.

Andre Bertrand said his aunt never had a problem saying no - and did so to dozens of journalists, filmmakers and medical researchers keen on discovering her secret to long life.

"She was tough, feisty and self-sufficient," Bertrand said of his aunt.

The eldest of six children of harness maker Napoleon Bertrand and his wife, Julia Mullins, Bertrand never married.

She had her suitors, Sauciere said, adding it's difficult to say how close she may have been to Louis St. Laurent, a young lawyer from Compton who went on to become prime minister.

"She was friends with his sister and I think she was sweet on him, but how serious it was, I don't know," Sauciere told the Gazette.

Bertrand worked as a buyer for the F.X. Lajoie department store in Coaticook, a mill town in the Eastern Townships close to the Quebec-U.S. border, according to the Gazette.

For the past 35 years, her home had been a small room at Residences Berthiaume de Tremblay, a long-term care facility overlooking the Riviere des Prairies.

Until 10 years ago, Bertrand enjoyed full health and a quiet life, punctuated by the home's social events, picnics, sing-alongs and her annual birthday party.

A private family service will be held at the nursing home. Years ago, Bertrand purchased a burial plot at the Catholic cemetery in Coaticook.
Internet hate site owner gets six months in jail
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
January 24, 2007

MONTREAL: Human rights advocates said Wednesday a judge was too lenient when he sentenced a man to six months in jail for the willful promotion of hatred on the Internet.

Quebec Court Judge Martin Vauclair on Tuesday called Jean-Sebastien Presseault "vile" and "nauseating" for building and managing a Web site promoting the genocide of blacks and Jews and featuring racist and anti-Semitic songs and games.

Presseault's Web site, which was created on a U.S. server, has since been removed.

Presseault, 30, had just finished serving another stint in jail for threatening a judge.

The ruling disappointed prosecutor Thierry Nadon, who had sought a one-year term to dissuade others from fomenting hatred.

"It's too lenient, with good behavior it can be reduced to a sixth of his sentence," said Moise Moghrabi of B'Nai Brith's League of Human Rights, a Jewish group. "Hatemongers find that (the Internet) is a fantastic tool to spread hatred and blanket the world."

Presseault is the second Canadian to go to jail for espousing hatred on the Internet. An Alberta judge handed a 16-month sentence to a man in September in what was called a groundbreaking Internet hate-crime case.

Presseault's Web site praised Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, Adolph Hitler and the Ku Klux Klan, and featured racist games and photos as well as "hate music" that police said has been downloaded more than 300,000 times.

Muslim woman chooses head scarf over job
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Fri March 16, 2007

MONTREAL: Muslim rights groups were angry Friday that a young Muslim woman was forced to quit her job at a prison after she refused to remove her religious headscarf.

Asked to choose between the scarf and a new training program at Montreal's Bordeaux jail, Sondos Abdelatif, 19, chose to wear her hijab and walked away from the job on Tuesday.

The incident has upset Muslim groups and fueled debate in predominantly Roman Catholic Quebec over reasonable accommodation for its religious and cultural minorities.

Abdelatif, whose family said she was in school and could not be reached for comment Friday, quit the program after she was told that a hostile prisoner could use her hijab to strangle her.

While rules at the institution make no mention of hijabs - a scarf that covers the hair and neck - they do stipulate that a guard's hair must be tied back and that they cannot wear ties.

Quebec's Public Security Department and the labor union representing prison guards supported the decision.

"As a security measure, the hijab cannot be accepted as an element of the uniform to execute the functions of a correctional officer," said public security department spokesman Real Roussy.

The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations called the firing "entirely unnecessary" and pointed out that the Canadian Armed Forces and police departments in other Canadian cities allow women to wear the headscarf on active duty.

"If it really was a security issue, they would have sat down with Sondos and would have said, 'Look, we're really worried about your safety and we need to talk about what we can do to address this or we'll fire you,'" said CCAIR spokeswoman Sarah Elgazzar. "But she was given an ultimatum: 'You either take it off or you're fired.'"

While the Armed Forces require a special head scarf, others working in police forces wear them bandana-style, Elgazzar said, adding that Abdelatif had been willing to do that.

The debate over how Muslims are treated in Quebec has been making headlines.

Last month, an 11-year-old Muslim girl from Ontario participating in a soccer tournament in Quebec was pulled off the field after she refused the referee's request to remove her scarf.

The Quebec Soccer Federation backed the decision by stressing it had been made in accordance with rules that forbid wearing anything that could cause harm during a game.

The flap became international when the issue of the hijab was raised at an International Football Association board meeting and Egypt later accused Canada of intolerance.

In January, the small rural town of Herouxville in central Quebec drew international attention when it adopted a declaration of "norms" that advise immigrants how to fit in, including a ban on face coverings other than on the Halloween holiday.

Muslim face veil banned in Quebec vote
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Fri March 23, 2007
MONTREAL - Muslim women will have to remove their face coverings if they want to vote in Monday's elections in Quebec, a government official said Friday, reversing his earlier decision to allow the veils.
Marcel Blanchet, the French-speaking province's election chief, had been criticized by Quebec's three main political leaders for allowing voters to wear the niqab, which covers the entire face except for the eyes, if they signed a sworn statement and showed identification when they vote.

But Blanchet reversed his earlier decision Friday, saying it was necessary to avoid disruptions when residents go to the polls.

"Relevant articles to electoral laws were modified to add the following: any person showing up at a polling station must be uncovered to exercise the right to vote," he said.

Blanchet had to get two bodyguards after the Quebec elections office received threatening phone calls and e-mails following his initial decision to allow niqabs. He said Friday some residents had threatened to protest by showing up to vote wearing masks.

The reversal was condemned by Muslims groups who said it could turn their members away from the polls. "I am so saddened, I doubt many of these women will show up at the polls on Monday after all this mockery," said Sarah Elgazzar of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Many European countries are also grappling with the issue of Muslim veils.

In Britain, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw caused a stir last year when he said he wanted Muslim women to abandon the full-face veil, while a Muslim teaching assistant in northern England was suspended from her job for refusing to remove one.

France passed a law in 2004 banning Islamic head scarves in schools, and the Netherlands has announced plans for one banning full-length veils in public places. Germany also has a law banning teachers in public schools from wearing head scarves.

Last week in Quebec, a young Muslim woman was forced to quit her job at a prison after she refused to remove her headscarf. The public security department supported the decision, citing security concerns, but Muslim groups pointed out that the Canadian Armed Forces allow women to wear headscarves on active duty.

Last month, an 11-year-old Muslim girl from Ontario participating in a soccer tournament in Quebec was pulled from the field after she refused the referee's request to remove her headscarf.

Global warming melts the Arctic triggering race for riches
The Associated Press
Fri March 23, 2007

HAMMERFEST, Norway (AP) _ Barren and uninhabited, Hans Island is very hard to find on a map.
Yet these days the Frisbee-shaped rock in the Arctic is much in demand _ so much so that Canada and Denmark have both staked their claim to it with flags and warships.

The reason: an international race for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, accelerated by the impact of global warming on Earth's frozen north.

The latest report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the ice cap is warming faster than the rest of the planet and ice is receding, partly due to greenhouse gases. It's a catastrophic scenario for the Arctic ecosystem, for polar bears and other wildlife, and for Inuit populations whose ancient cultures depend on frozen waters.

But some see a lucrative silver lining of riches waiting to be snatched from the deep, and the prospect of timesaving sea lanes that could transform the shipping industry the way the Suez Canal did in the 19th century.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Arctic has as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. Moscow reportedly sees the potential of minerals in its slice of the Arctic sector approaching US$2 trillion (euro1.5 trillion).

All this has pushed governments and businesses into a scramble for sovereignty over these suddenly priceless seas.

Regardless of climate change, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is moving full speed ahead. State-controlled Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA plans to start tapping gas from its offshore Snoehvit field in December, the first in the Barents Sea. It uses advanced equipment on the ocean floor, remote-controlled from the Norwegian oil boom town of Hammerfest through a 90-mile (145-kilometer) undersea cable.

Alan Murray, an analyst with the energy consultants Wood Mackenzie, said most petroleum companies are now focusing research and exploration on the far north. Russia is developing the vast Shkotman natural gas field off its Arctic coast, and Norwegians hope their advanced technology will find a place there.

``Oil will bring a big geopolitical focus. It is a driving force in the Arctic,'' said Arvid Jensen, a consultant in Hammerfest who advises companies that hope to hitch their economic wagons to the northern rush.

It could open the North Pole region to easy navigation for five months a year, according to the latest Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, an intergovernmental group. That could cut sailing time from Germany to Alaska by 60 percent, going through Russia's Arctic instead of the Panama Canal.

Or the Northwest Passage could open through the channels of Canada's Arctic islands and shorten the voyage from Europe to the Far East. And that's where Hans Island, at the entrance to the Northwest Passage, starts to matter.

The half-square-mile (1.3-square-kilometer) rock, just one-seventh the size of New York's Central Park, is wedged between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Danish-ruled Greenland, and for more than 20 years has been a subject of unusually bitter exchanges between the two NATO allies.

In 1984, Denmark's minister for Greenland affairs, Tom Hoeyem, caused a stir when he flew in on a chartered helicopter, raised a Danish flag on the island, buried a bottle of brandy at the base of the flagpole and left a note saying: ``Welcome to the Danish island.''

The dispute erupted again two years ago when Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham set foot on the rock while Canadian troops hoisted the Maple Leaf flag.

Denmark sent a letter of protest to Ottawa, while Canadians and Danes took out competing Google ads, each proclaiming sovereignty over the rock 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) south of the North Pole.

Some Canadians even called for a boycott of Danish pastries.

Although both countries have repeatedly sent warships to the island to make their presence felt, there's no risk of a shooting war _ both sides are resolved to settle the problem peacefully. But the prospect of a warmer planet opening up the icy waters has helped push the issue up the agenda.

``We all realize that because of global warming it will suddenly be an area that will become more accessible,'' said Peter Taksoe-Jensen, head of the Danish Foreign Ministry's legal department.

Shortcuts through Arctic waters are no longer the stuff of science fiction.

In August 2005, the Akademik Fyodorov of Russia was the first ship to reach the North Pole without icebreaker help. The Norwegian shipyard Aker Yards is building innovative vessels that sail forward in clear waters, and then turn around to plow with their sterns through heavier ice.

Global warming is also bringing an unexpected bonus to American transportation company OmniTrax Inc., which a decade ago bought the small underutilized Northwest Passage port of Churchill, Manitoba, for a token fee of 10 Canadian dollars (about US$8;euro6).

The company, which is private, won't say how much money it is making in Churchill, but it was estimated to have moved more than 500,000 tons of grain through the port in 2007.

Managing director Michael Ogborn said climate change was not something the company thought about in 1997.

``But over the last 10 years we saw a lengthening of the season, which appears to be related to global warming,'' Ogborn said. ``We see the trend continuing.''

Just a few years ago, reports said it would take 100 years for the ice to melt, but recent studies say it could happen in 10-15 years, and the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway have been rushing to stake their claims in the Arctic.

Norway and Russia have issues in the Barents Sea; the U.S. and Russia in Beaufort Sea; the U.S. and Canada over rights to the Northwest Passage; and even Alaska and Canada's Yukon province over their offshore boundary.

Canada, Russia and Denmark are seeking to claim waters all the way up to the North Pole, saying the seabed is part of their continental shelf under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Norway wants to extend its claims on the same basis, although not all the way to the pole.

Canada says the Northwest Passage is its territory, a claim the United States hotly disputes, insisting the waters are neutral. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pledged to put military icebreakers in the frigid waters ``to assert our sovereignty and take action to protect our territorial integrity.''

Politics aside, there are environmental concerns. Apart from the risk of oil spills, more vessels could carry alien organisms into the Northwest Passage, posing a risk to indigenous life forms.

The Arctic melt has also been intensifying competition over dwindling fishing stocks.

Fish stocks essential to some regions appear to be moving to colder waters, and thus into another country's fishing grounds. Russian and Norwegian fishermen already report catching salmon much farther north than is normal.

``It is potentially very dramatic for fish stocks. They could move toward the North Pole, which would make sovereignty very unclear,'' said Dag Vongraven, an environmental expert at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Russia contests Norway's claims to fish-rich waters around the Arctic Svalbard Islands, and has even sent warships there to underscore its discontent with the Norwegian Coast Guard boarding Russian trawlers there.

``Even though they say it is about fish, it is really about oil,'' said Jensen, the consultant in Hammerfest.

In 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the sovereignty issue ``a serious, competitive battle'' that ``will unfold more and more fiercely.''

With all the squabbling over ownership, Tristan Pearce, a research associate at the University of Guelph's Global Environmental Change Group in Canada, reminded Arctic nations of who got there first: indigenous peoples like the Inuits and the Sami.

``Everybody is talking about the potential for minerals, diamonds, oil and gas, but we mustn't forget that people live there, all the way across the Arctic,'' he said. ``They've always been there and they have a major role to play.''


Associated Press reporters Beth Duff-Brown in Toronto, Phil Couvrette in Montreal, Mike Eckel in Moscow, Dan Joling in Anchorage, Alaska, and Karl Ritter in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.

Separatists in three-way vote to defeat federalist liberals
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Sun March 25, 2007

MONTREAL  _ Quebecers decide the fate of Premier Jean Charest's Liberal government Monday in an extremely close three-way election that experts say could usher in a minority government, staving off another referendum in the French-speaking province on separation from Canada.

Charest and his federalist Liberal party face tough challenges from Andre Boisclair of the separatist Parti Quebecois and Mario Dumont's conservative-oriented Action Democratique with polls showing the three parties in a dead heat and many voters still undecided.

More than 5.6 million voters are registered for the election to fill the 125 seats in the National Assembly, the provincial legislature.

A win by the separatists, who were removed from power in the previous election and vow to hold a vote on independence if elected, would be a blow to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who supported a motion recognizing the French-speaking people of Quebec as a nation within Canada last fall and whose recent budget was viewed as being particularly generous to Quebec.

While separation has not been a major issue in the campaign, it is never far from the surface as support for independence usually hovers around 45 percent and Boisclair wants to hold a referendum as soon as possible if elected.

But the idea of holding another referendum soon is unpopular and Boisclair's personal popularity lags behind that of Charest and Dumont, 36, whose party would seek to trim government and obtain more autonomy for Quebec within a united Canada.

Dumont made his mark in the campaign early for speaking out against some accommodations for religious and cultural minorities living in predominantly Catholic Quebec.

The issue took center stage on Friday when an electoral official ruled that Muslim women will have to remove their face coverings if they want to vote in Monday's election, reversing his earlier decision to allow the veils.

Dumont's rise as a contender, after his party finished a distant third in the 2003 elections, has upset the usual duality of the political landscape that made the issue of Quebec sovereignty so predominant since the 1970s.

A minority government would need the support of other parties to pass legislation because they would lack a majority in the National Assembly. Quebec has not seen such a government since 1878.

"As far as we can remember we had a party system that was bipolar with two dominant parties that were trading majorities after two terms," says University of Montreal political scientist Pierre Martin. "This time not only do we see a sitting party on the verge of losing an election after just one term, but we also have a three-party situation. It's a brand new situation."

A minority Parti Quebecois government would have to drop its main objective of holding a new referendum because it would require a majority vote in the National Assembly that the other parties would reject, Martin says.

The Parti Quebecois held referendums on separation in 1980 and 1995, losing the second by a razor-thin margin.

Charest, 48, says the PQ's independence ambitions leave it out of tune with average Quebecers.

"It's a whole series of questions, quarrels, that are not the priority of Quebecers," he said.

But to Charest's dismay Quebecers are particularly dissatisfied with his record for failing to keep promises of major tax cuts in the most heavily taxed province in the country.

"The Liberal government of Jean Charest was not very popular so people are looking for a protest vote," said Antonia Maioni of McGill's Institute for the Study of Canada.

Charest wants Quebecers to stop being among the most taxed citizens in North America, but his last-minute announcement of $700 million Canadian (US$603 million) in new tax cuts was criticized by Boisclair, who said that Quebecers would see through past broken promises and what he considered an attempt to buy their vote. He also accused Charest of being too cozy with Ottawa, something of a liability in Quebec.

When the election was called on Feb. 21, Charest seemed to enjoy a comfortable lead in the polls but it has gradually eroded after weeks of lackluster campaigning. Still two major dailies, Montreal's La Presse and Gazette, backed the incumbent.

The Liberals can traditionally count on strong support among English-speakers and immigrant communities. But this solid base of support comprises about 20 percent of the electorate, so Charest will also need the help of French-speakers, who make up 80 percent of the voters.

Rwandan is first to stand trial in Canada under War Crimes Act
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Mon March 26, 2007
MONTREAL: A survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide told a hushed courtroom Monday how she repeatedly cheated death in a desperate attempt to escape Hutu militias, as the trial began for the first person charged under Canada's War Crimes Act.

Desire Munyaneza, 40, faces two counts of genocide, two counts of crimes against humanity and three charges of war crimes under the seven-year-old act that allows Ottawa to try suspects within its borders for crimes that occured abroad.

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Munyaneza is accused of leading attacks on Tutsis at the National University of Rwanda and south of the capital, Kigali, during the 1994 genocide, in which more than half a million members of the Tutsi ethnic minority and politically moderate Hutus were slain.

Prosecutor Pascale Ledoux told an overflowing Quebec Superior Court that Munyaneza had "the intention of destroying the Tutsi population in the context of an armed conflict."

Canada denied Munyaneza, a Hutu, refugee status in September 2000 and he lost several appeals. An Immigration and Refugee Board panel also found there were reasons to believe he had participated in crimes against humanity.

African Rights, a Rwandan group that has documented the genocide, linked Munyaneza to key figures indicted by the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal.

Munyaneza was living in Toronto before he was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in October 2005 after reports of his sightings started circulating among Canada's Rwandan community.

Some 12 Rwandan witnesses are expected to testify against Munyaneza in the coming months.

Their names have been kept secret, and the first woman to testify Monday sat behind a screen.

Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who headed the multinational U.N. peacekeeping force during the genocide, is also expected to testify.

Witness C-15 - a Tutsi woman born in 1977 who was going to school in Butare in 1994 - said she was one of two people to survive the slaughter of some 3,000 people at the school, having been left for dead on a pile of bodies after she was knocked out.

In the following days, she sought refuge in a hospital. Beatings and killings continued inside the hospital, assisted by doctors, she said, forcing her to flee again.

The witness said she was spared at one of the road blocks after telling militia members that while her mother was Tutsi, her father was a Hutu, but then watched a Tutsi slain on the spot.

"These people did a lot of bad things," she said through a translator in a Rwandan dialect.

She said "Desire" manned one of the road blocks and badly beat Tutsi refugees with a club before loading them on trucks. She did not, however, list him among the local leaders of the Hutu militia whom she recognized.

Munyaneza, wearing a gray suit with a blue shirt, listened attentively and took notes.

"It is very important for the truth to come out; anything that can accomplish that and render justice to the victims is," said Jean-Paul Nyilinkwaya, a spokesman for the Page-Rwanda Association, which supports survivors of the genocide.

Though Munyaneza is the first to be prosecuted under the war crimes act, there are more than 70 active cases under investigation, according to the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.

Quebec faces new political landscape
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Mon March 26, 2007

MONTREAL (AP) - Quebec politics were thrown into turmoil Monday when Prime Minister Jean Charest's Liberals were only able to eke out a slight lead in elections, giving the French-speaking province its first minority government in nearly 130 years.

The conservative Action Democratique surged into a surprising second place and official opposition party status, while the separatist Parti Quebecois lost seats and calmed fears by opponents that a renewed independence movement was gaining ground.

The three-way race and the toss-up for second place left more than 5.6 million registered voters facing an uncertain political landscape.

Charest's Liberals won or led in just more than one-third of Quebec's 125 seats in the National Assembly, the provincial parliament, a handful more than Action Democratique and the third-place Quebec separatist Parti Quebecois.

The massive rise of Mario Dumont's Action Democratique was the story of the night. His rise as a contender, after his party finished a distant third in the 2003 elections, has upset the usual duality of the political landscape that made the issue of Quebec sovereignty so predominant since the 1970s.

Charest was the first prime minister to fail to win a second majority mandate in 40 years.

"Sure there's a little disappointment, but it's still a nice victory," retiree Andree Filiatrault said at Liberal Party headquarters in downtown Montreal.

"We thought it was going to be easier, but we'll take it; we still won," said another Liberal Party member, Martin Liu.

When asked how Quebecers would deal with their first minority government in more than a century, he said: "We'll have to negotiate. The people here have never seen a minority government."

The result also left the Parti Quebecois and the provincial sovereignty movement with major questions. Under Andre Boisclair, the party fell to the lowest level of popular support in decades and the smallest number of seats since 1989.

While separation has not been a major issue in the campaign, it is never far from the surface as support for independence usually hovers around 45%, and Boisclair had said he intended to hold a referendum as soon as possible if elected.

But the idea of holding another referendum soon is unpopular, and the 40-year-old Boisclair's personal popularity lags behind that of Charest, 48, and 36-year-old Dumont, whose party sought to trim government and obtain more autonomy for Quebec within a united Canada.

Dumont made his mark in the campaign early for speaking out against some accommodations for religious and cultural minorities living in predominantly Catholic Quebec.

The issue took center stage on Friday when an electoral official ruled that Muslim women will have to remove their face coverings if they want to vote in Monday's election, reversing his earlier decision to allow the veils.

"It's about a need for change; the Liberals have made too many unkept promises and I like what Dumont is saying about the need to reduce the size of government," Gerome Beaulieu, a 27-year-old school teacher, said just after voting for Action Democratique. "It's a bit of a protest vote."

The new minority Liberal government will now need the support of other parties to pass legislation because they would lack a majority in the National Assembly. Quebec has not seen such a government since 1878.

"As far as we can remember we had a party system that was bipolar with two dominant parties that were trading majorities after two terms," says University of Montreal political scientist Pierre Martin. "This time not only do we see a sitting party on the verge of losing an election after just one term, but we also have a three-party situation. It's a brand new situation."

The minority Parti Quebecois government will now have to drop its main objective of holding a new referendum as that would have required a majority vote in the National Assembly.

The Parti Quebecois held referendums on separation in 1980 and 1995, losing the second by a razor-thin margin.

But to Charest's dismay, Quebecers are particularly dissatisfied with his record for failing to keep promises of major tax cuts in the most heavily taxed province in the country.

"The Liberal government of Jean Charest was not very popular, so people are looking for a protest vote," said Antonia Maioni of McGill's Institute for the Study of Canada.

Charest wants Quebecers to stop being among the most taxed citizens in North America, but his last-minute announcement of $700 million Canadian (US $603 million) in new tax cuts was criticized by Boisclair, who said Quebecers would see through past broken promises and what he considered an attempt to buy their vote. He also accused Charest of being too cozy with Ottawa, something of a liability in Quebec.

Girls won't remove hijab at sports event
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Sun April 15, 2007

MONTREAL - First soccer, then Tae Kwon Do. A team of mainly Muslim girls had to pull out of a Tae Kwon Do tournament Sunday because members refused to remove their hijabs.

Tournament organizers told team officials the girls could not compete because the head scarves posed a safety risk. It is the second ban of hijabs in Quebec sports in recent months, part of a larger debate in the province about accommodations for cultural and religious minorities.

International referee Stephane Menard said the decision was made at a referees' meeting earlier in the day.

"The equipment that is allowed under the world Tae Kwon Do federation rules doesn't include the hijab," Menard said Sunday. "We applied the rules to the letter."

In February, an 11-year-old Muslim girl from Ontario participating in a soccer tournament in Quebec was pulled from the field after she refused the referee's request to remove her head scarf. The move was supported by soccer associations, citing security concerns.

The Tae Kwon Do team, made up of girls between eight and 12 years old, is affiliated with a Muslim community center in Montreal. Five of the team's six players wear a hijab but have been allowed to participate in similar tournaments around Quebec.

The Muslim center's boys club pulled out of the tournament in an act of solidarity.

"I'm very upset," said Bissan Mansour, one of the players. "We made so many efforts and practiced harder than usual to be here."

Team coach Mahdi Sbeiti said he does not understand why his team is being barred now, especially since many of the referees were familiar.

"On the international scene, many teams from Muslim countries wear the hijab and have never had such a problem," Sbeiti said. "I don't see why it should be a problem here and now."

Sbeiti says his team has often been cited as an example of cultural integration but suspects the political atmosphere played a role in the decision.

Quebec has been embroiled in a debate about accommodations for cultural and religious minorities.

Ahead of provincial elections last month, government officials ruled that Muslim women had to remove their face coverings if they wanted to vote, to allow for proper identification.

The Canadian Council of American-Islamic Relations said Sunday's decision will not encourage Muslim women to participate in sports.

"With Azzy Mansour being kicked off a Quebec soccer field for wearing the hijab, and five girls today being ejected from the Longueuil tae kwan do tournament, it seems that Muslim women now have to make a choice between their faith and sport," said Sarah Elgazzar, CAIR-CAN spokeswoman.

Trial of accused Rwandan criminal delayed as he recovers
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Mon April 16, 2007

MONTREAL - A Rwandan man standing trial for war crimes for his alleged role in that country's 1994 genocide remains under medical watch and will be kept in isolation after having been beaten in his Canadian jail cell, a court heard Monday.

Desire Munyaneza's trial was further postponed until Wednesday, one week after he was severely beaten by an inmate and taken to a hospital bleeding from his eyes and with head wounds.

Munyaneza, 40, is the first person charged under Canada's War Crimes Act, which permits the trial of suspects for crimes that occurred abroad. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

During a court session that judge Andre Denis said was a break from the actual trial, the director of the detention center, Yves Ste-Marie, said he regretted the beating incident and that "extraordinary" measures were being used to protect Munyaneza, such as isolating him at all times in his cell block and during transportation to the courthouse.

Munyaneza is accused of leading attacks on members of the Tutsi ethnic minority at the National University of Rwanda and south of the capital, Kigali. More than a half million Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during the genocide.

The proceedings were first halted last Thursday so Munyaneza could recover from his injuries.

His latest checkup, completed this morning, reported him as being fit enough to stand trial, but his lawyers said Munyaneza could not see from one eye and had trouble concentrating.

His lawyers, who have called the beating an embarrassment to Canada's justice system, said Munyaneza and his 17-year-old attacker are mutually pressing charges against each other over the incident.

Montreal police learned from previous school shootings
By Phil Couvrette
Associated Press Writer
Mon April 16, 2007

MONTREAL - When a lone gunman entered Dawson college in Montreal and began shooting last September, police counted on new procedures and a bit of luck to neutralize the assailant quickly.

Kimveer Gill, 25, opened fire at the downtown Montreal college last September, slaying a young woman and wounding 19 other people before he turned the gun on himself as police cornered him.

As luck would have it police officers on the scene for an unrelated matter were rapid first responders able to spot the suspect. But in a city which had seen two college shootings in the 17 previous years, police had also gained experience from the previous incidents to keep the situation from getting out of control.

Montreal Police Chief Yvan Delorme said last September that precious lessons learned from other mass shootings had taught police to try to stop such assaults as quickly as possible.

"Before our technique was to establish a perimeter around the place and wait for the SWAT team. Now the first police officers go right inside. The way they acted saved lives," he said.

Montreal police refused to comment Monday about the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, but as Americans try to make sense of the deadliest campus massacre in U.S. history which left at least 33 dead, including the gunman, questions have begun to emerge about the time allowed to elapse before authorities contained the shooting.

In Canada the lessons were painfully learned from the Dec. 6, 1989 college shooting at Montreal's École Polytechnique, Canada's bloodiest, during which Marc Lépine entered a classroom at the engineering school, separated the men from the women, told the men to leave and opened fire, killing 14 women before killing himself.

While shots rang out at École Polytechnique emergency personnel "had a perimeter outside and they waited. No one went inside," Delorme recalled last September.

Another shooting in Montreal occurred in 1992, when a Concordia University professor killed four colleagues.

By last September Montreal officers had changed their modus operandi and rushed into the building only a few minutes after the gunman.

"This time it was very efficient, very proactive," Delorme then said.

Aaron Cohen, a SWAT trainer based in California, said time is of the essence during such circumstances, as the quick intervention in Montreal eventually showed, avoiding a similar bloodbath.

"While they wait another innocent person is dead. There's just no time to sit around," Cohen told Canada's CBC TV. "It has to be fast.

On Monday a gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dorm and then, two hours later, shot up a classroom building across campus, killing 32 people in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history. The gunman committed suicide, bringing the death toll to 33.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said authorities believed that the shooting at the dorm was a domestic dispute and mistakenly thought the gunman had fled the campus.